By Jonathan Nagioff (@JonathanNagioff)
Mohammad Salah scored a sublime hattrick as Liverpool took Bournemouth to the sword at the Vitality Stadium, running out 4-0 winners on Saturday.
The Reds took a controversial lead into the break, as Roberto Firmino’s fierce effort was palmed straight into Salah’s path by Asmir Begovic, with replays showing the Egyptian was in an offside position in the build-up.
The visitors doubled their lead early in the second half with Salah slotting home from close range and the game was all but over after Steve Cook’s own goal, with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Salah, who became joint top scorer in the league with Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang put the gloss on the game with an exquisite fourth, rounding Begovic twice and squeezing the ball into the bottom corner.
The result catapults Jurgen Klopp’s side to the Premier League summit again, at least temporarily with Manchester City facing Chelsea in the late kick off.
Eddie Howe was forced into two changes to the side that edged past Huddersfield in midweek; Junior Stanislas and Andrew Surman replacing the injured duo of Lewis Cook and Callum Wilson respectively.
Jurgen Klopp made five changes from the 3-1 win over Burnley in on Wednesday, with Joe Gomez, Alberto Moreno, Jordan Henderson, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge all withdrawn with Joel Matip, Andy Robertson, Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and Salah returning to the side.
After a tentative early period, the visitors found their rhythm and Salah should have opened the scoring after latching onto a through ball from Shaqiri, but he unusually fired wide.
The Cherries had two opportunities in succession soon after. Josh King, playing as the lone striker in Wilson’s absence, weaved his way into the box but dragged in his shot wide of Alisson’s far post.
And following a neat interchange between Charlie Daniels and King, the latter played through David Brooks, however the Welshman’s effort was parried behind by Alisson at his near post.
Moments later Surman saw a speculative volley from just outside the box, drift just wide of the post.
But the home side’s resistance was broken on 25 minutes. Firmino’s fizzing effort was parried by Begovic straight to Salah who kept his composure to slot the ball home.
The strike was awarded in controversial circumstances however, with replays showing Salah strayed offside as Firmino took aim.
Bournemouth could only conjure up half chances from set pieces as the half drew to a close, with the away side strolling into the lead at the break.
The task became even tougher for the home side just three minutes after the restart with Salah doubling the visitors’ lead with a neat, close range finish into the far corner past Begovic.
The Egpytian was threaded through by Firmino and held off the defensive challenges to secure his second of the game.
Howe threw the dice by putting Lys Mousset on in place of Brooks in a bid to find a way back into the match, with the forward partnering King.
But Liverpool put the game beyond Bournemouth by adding a third with just over 20 minutes remaining, as Steve Cook turned the ball into the back of his own net after a tricky cross from Andy Robertson.
The Cherries to their credit continued to press forward and Mousset had the ball in the net after latching on to Surman’s dinked pass, but the Frenchman was called offside.
Salah completed his hattrick moments later with an individual piece of brilliance after racing onto the ball ahead of Cook and rounding Begovic twice before coolly slotting home.
Howe reverted to a five-man defence late on with the introduction of Tyrone Mings and Diego Rico in place of Stanislas and Daniels, but the changes were ineffective in truth as the Reds comfortably saw off an emphatic victory.
The win is the perfect confidence booster for Klopp’s men, if they needed any ahead of Tuesday’s crunch Champions League game against Napoli, whilst domestically the win sends them top of the Premier League and they will remain there if Chelsea beat Manchester City in the late fixture.
Bournemouth have now won just one of their last six league games and face Wolves at Molineux before a trip to Stamford Bridge for the Carabao Cup quarter final.
Bournemouth: Begovic (GK), Francis (C), S.Cook, Ake, Daniels, Stanislas, Surman, Lerma, Fraser, Brooks, King
Subs: Boruc (GK), Rico, Mings, Pugh, Ibe, Mousset, Defoe
Liverpool: Alisson (GK), Milner (C), Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Keita, Shaqiri, Salah, Firmino
Subs: Mignolet (GK), Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Lallana, Mane, Sturridge, Origi