The Reds extended their record run, remaining the only unbeaten side in the league after Manchester City’s loss at Chelsea, taking a massive step in their title challenge. Liverpool batted Bournemouth aside 0-4 at the Vitality Stadium.
Jurgen Klopp has built this squad to win in more ways than they have at any time in his tenure. Yet, the Reds look increasingly like they may have finally begun clicking. The side played with exceptional purpose, controlling the contest from start to finish.
Before the matchday 16 finished, the win earned them top spot in the league table.
It may have been a milestone day for James Milner, but Mohamed Salah, not for the first time, stole the show. Milner made his 500th Premier League appearance, however, Salah scored a hat-trick.
Yet, the ever-humble goalscorer refused to receive the Man of the Match award. Instead, the attacker handed the award to Milner in a remarkable show of respect for the veteran who served as the side’s captain.
Salah opened the scoring amidst mild controversy before the break, sticking home a rebound from Roberto Firmino’s venomous shot from distance. While he could have been called offside, Salah used the second half to remove all doubt.
Minutes after the restart, Salah shook off Steve Cook’s cynical challenge to slot home another. Then after a Cook own goal, he rekindled reminiscences of last season, racing to shake off a tackle and surge behind Bournemouth’s defence, beating Asmir Begovic twice, and flicking the ball sublimely into the back of the net.
Here are four findings from the match:
As the goals piled up last season, Mo Salah exhausted all superlatives. After Saturday’s game, any suggestion that he was a “one season wonder” or struggling in any way were emphatically swatted sideways.
The Egyptian oozed confidence and class to put three past Begovic and the south coast hosts. It was a supreme performance.
Salah has now tallied 42 goals in just 52 league matches since joining Liverpool. Even more impressive, in 71 games with the club, he has amassed a stunning 55 goals and 21 assists.
Still, his contributions since joining the club almost defy counting. Against the Cherries, Salah produced a searing reminder that he is the reigning player of the year and few even come close.
For the first time, all three outfield summer signings made the starting lineup. Fabinho paired with Gini Wijnaldum at the base of a midfield two, while Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri flanked Roberto Frimino across the front midfield three behind Mo Salah. All three newcomers supplied solid shifts and removed any rotation concerns.
Keita and Shaqiri started brightly, showing their qualities that give Liverpool’s attacking midfield a completely different look. Each one can play wide and drift inside to can cause opponents consistent problems with the ball. Both were substituted with a possible eye on the crucial midweek Champions League match to come.
Fabinho impressed again, starting his second match in a row. The Brazilian reads the game remarkably well and provided defensive solidity, as well as the ability to push the ball forward with urgency. He has clearly begun to get to grips with the pace of the league and should only get stronger.
This was arguably the best team performance of the season from Liverpool, it was as determined as it was dominant. The Reds squeezed the Cherries onto their own half for large stretches of the match.
Despite Bournemouth’s willingness to battle, Liverpool played with perception and pace. Then home side’s physicality eventually proved powerless.
As Liverpool increased their control of the contest, the side oozed with class. Roberto Firmino finding his form produced a contagion.
The Reds showed no shortage of tricks and flicks all over the pitch. As a result, they were able get out of tight spaces, break any Bournemouth press, and surge forward with menace.
The rise of Liverpool’s defence has become nothing short of stunning. In less than a year and a half, the entire defensive unit has been renewed with enormous implications. The combination of additions and rise of prospects has made Liverpool the unquestioned envy of the league.
Virgil van Dijk’s arrival has been seismic. In 30 starts since joining the club, he has overseen 17 clean sheets and the side conceded just 16 goals. The Dutchman has been the difference-maker.
Adding Alisson in the offseason delivered another masterstroke. The Brazilian keeper surpassed Javier Mascherano to set a new club record of 16 league games from debut without a loss. In that span, he has only conceded six goals while keeping 10 clean sheets, easily leading the league in both categories.
Combined with the rise of last summer’s addition Andrew Robertson and academy graduates Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez, Liverpool have rebuilt a bulwark backline that gives the team the best balance since Klopp took the reigns. Even as Gomez will see time out through injury, Dejan Lovre and Joel Matip provide solid cover in the middle. Only at fullback does the cover look potentially thin.