The smile was wider this time, like it meant more. Mohamed Salah had just handed Liverpool the lead against Watford.
The celebration, though, was unlike Salah, but offered an insight into the mind of Liverpool’s talismanic forward.
Intertwining his hands to mimic a butterfly as he rushed towards the fervent away supporters seemed rather inoffensive at first. But, of course, it was meant to offend, a Real Madrid central defender in Salah’s crosshairs.
Mohamed Salah performed a butterfly celebration after finding the net for Liverpool
Salah mimicked Ramos’ celebration after the defender was hit with serious doping allegations
Just 24 hours after Sergio Ramos’s integrity was questioned amid serious doping allegations, the Egyptian sought to have a laugh at the Spaniard’s expense as he mimicked the defender’s trademark celebration.
And why not? God knows Ramos hasn’t been slow in trying to belittle Salah since last season’s Champions League final, when the forward’s involvement was cut short with a shoulder injury after a controversial collision with Ramos.
Salah is humble, softly spoken and self-effacing. His speech in accepting last season’s Football Writers’ player of the year award was testament to his modesty.
All in all, most agree he is a nice guy with a ruthless streak in front of goal. On Saturday — for once — Salah bit back.
His jibe at Ramos will never compensate for what happened in May. But for that brief moment at Vicarage Road, the Liverpool hero showed he can give as good as he gets. And it is sure to endear him further to the Anfield faithful.
The Egyptian broke the deadlock in the second half as Liverpool beat Watford on Saturday
His crucial strike against resolute Watford on Saturday set Liverpool on their way to a 10th win in 13 Premier League games.
The perception that Salah isn’t the irresistible player he was last season is being rendered absurd, given that he’s now scored nine goals this season. His detractors will point to the fact he’d scored 14 goals after his first 18 games for the club last season.
But Liverpool are a different beast this term. They are more assured, more controlled — they play with the patience of a team who know they will eventually break their opponents down.
The signings of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson are proving crucial in their new-found discipline, though captain Jordan Henderson’s sending-off for two bookings means he will miss Sunday’s Merseyside derby.
Of course, they are still capable of steamrollering teams in the opening 45 minutes of games — the way that their front three of Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino combined for the Egyptian to put Liverpool ahead emphasised their attacking brilliance. So did Trent Alexander-Arnold’s wonderful free-kick to double their lead.
Salah celebrates after giving Liverpool the lead in the Premier League clash at Vicarage Road
But there’s a patience to Jurgen Klopp’s side this campaign they arguably didn’t possess last season. ‘The thing is, we have to win football games. But people compare a game against Watford with a game against Roma,’ Klopp said.
‘It’s not really the same, but it’s in everyone’s mind about the sort of football we played last season.
‘But in some games we played not that nice football and didn’t get a result but nobody remembers that. That’s why we had 25 points less than City.
‘In games like this, you don’t win by coming here and running over the team. You have to do the right things, and we did it. You have to be patient. We stay cool.’
Yet Liverpool were still indebted to referee Jon Moss, who controversially failed to award Watford a penalty with the scores still at 0-0.
Andy Robertson appeared to catch Will Hughes in the box, and the replays seemed to back up Watford’s appeals for a penalty.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is congratulated by Jordan Henderson (R) and Andy Robertson (L)
Robertson, the Liverpool defender, suggested that Hughes ought to have been cautioned. He said: ‘I’ve watched it back and I still don’t think I made contact with him.
‘I think he was looking for it. He went down quite easily and I don’t know why the referee didn’t book him, having not given the penalty.’
Watford nevertheless had every right to feel they had suffered an injustice. Not just because of the penalty, either.
Not even the most ardent Liverpool supporter can say Watford deserved to lose 3-0. Javi Gracia’s well-organised outfit frustrated Klopp’s men until Salah struck.
‘It was closer than the scoreline, but you know playing against Liverpool, a very good team, they are able to do this,’ said Gracia.
Meanwhile, Joe Gomez is expected to be fit for Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain after missing the game at Watford with a minor ankle injury.