Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League with a composed display at Anfield that sent Bournemouth to an eighth successive away defeat.
Three days after Manchester City moved top on goal difference, Jurgen Klopp’s side responded to talk of the pressure of a title race showing in their performances in emphatic style.
After a fairly cagey opening which saw Ryan Fraser test Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, Sadio Mane settled any nerves by powerfully heading home James Milner’s cross.
It meant Mane had scored in four successive Premier League games for the first time in his career and 10 minutes later, Georginio Wijnaldum doubled the lead with a sublime lob over the helpless Artur Boruc.
Moments after the break, Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino combined stylishly to present Mohamed Salah with a simple finish from 10 yards, his 20th goal in all competitions this season.
Klopp’s side never looked in danger of losing their lead and moved on to 65 points, a tally which would have been enough for at least a nine-point lead in the title race in any of the last five seasons after 26 games.
Key trio timing form?
The pace both Liverpool and Manchester City have set has continued to demand the need for almost unprecedented consistency in a title race and prompted questions of Klopp’s side after successive draws.
But here they crushed hope Eddie Howe’s side. The win was built on a solid opening quarter and Bournemouth never looked capable of testing the nerve of the home side after falling behind.
While Mane and Salah will win plaudits for goals, Firmino’s use of the ball throughout deserves praise, none more so than when he played a superb reverse pass to send Salah into the box after half-time, only for the Egyptian to rattle a shot against the bar.
Salah needs one more goal to reach 50 in the Premier League and having completed only 62 matches, he looks set to beat Alan Shearer’s record of reaching the mark in 66 games.
In all, Klopp’s side took advantage of the tame offering their visitors provided by registering 20 shots, with Mane guilty of missing a free-header from 10 yards after the break and Firmino somehow wasting a chance when one-on-one with the keeper late on.
Are Liverpool showing nerves? This result would imply not, though Bournemouth’s refusal to show any true ambition in a defensive 4-4-1-1 system provided little for Liverpool to think about.
But the sight of Trent Alexander-Arnold coming off the bench to end a spell of injury will please Klopp and his trio of Firmino, Salah and Mane have now been responsible for 14 of the Reds’ last 15 goals in the Premier League.
If Liverpool are to end 29 years of wait for a league title, that trio look braced to continue playing a major role.
More to follow.