Report from Dan Davis (@dan_davis20) at Vitality Stadium
Egyptian superstar Mohamed Salah bagged a scintillating hat-trick to condemn Bournemouth to a heavy 4-0 defeat – a fifth loss in their last six Premier League games.
The live wire forward swept the visitors into a first-half lead in controversial style, after standing in an offside position before pouncing on a rebound.
An otherworldly run from Salah was then followed by a tidy finish minutes after the second-half restart, before Steve Cook’s own goal further increased Liverpool’s lead.
The rout was rounded off deep in the second half, when Salah rounded Asmir Begovic and tapped home from close-range – sending the Egyptian joint top of the top goalscorer chart and Liverpool to the summit of the Premier League.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe made two changes to the side that had edged past Huddersfield Town mid-week.
Lewis Cook’s severe anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained against the Terriers has ruled the England international out for six to nine months, meaning Andrew Surman returned to the starting line-up.
Cherries’ top goalscorer, Callum Wilson, was also ruled out of the clash against the Reds after a minor hamstring strain.
Jurgen Klopp made five alterations to the visitors, recalling Salah, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Andrew Robertson and Georginio Wijnaldum. The visitors’ captain, James Milner, was handed his 500th top flight appearance on the south coast.
Liverpool eased into the ascendency throughout the opening period of play, dominating possession at ease on a wind-swept surface, but were forced to wait until eleven minutes for their first opening.
Firmino looked to poke a delicate ball through to Salah just inside Cherries’ penalty area, before Nathan Ake was penalised by referee Lee Mason for a handball 20 yards from goal. Xherdan Shaqiri looked to guide the dead ball towards the top right corner, only to see the attempt deflect off the wall and loop behind harmlessly.
On 14 minutes, the visitors threatened to open the scoring once again. Shaqiri lofted a perfectly-weighted pass over Cherries’ offside trap attempt, allowing Salah to ghost in at the far post. But with the angle tightening, the Liverpool forward could only skew his strike horribly off target.
It wasn’t until midway through the half that the home side eased into the contest. King collected possession 30 yards from goal after a clever interchange in the middle of the field, before driving toward the Liverpool defence. With a deft drop of the shoulder, the Norwegian created ample space to shoot but dragged his effort comfortably wide of Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson’s far upright.
Starlet David Brooks was the next to try his luck a minute later, but was denied by Alisson from a tight angle following Junior Stanislas’ deft through pass.
But for all of Bournemouth’s hard work at remaining compact, the visitors took the lead on 25 minutes.
Following a swift interchange between Firmino and Salah on the edge of the penalty area, the former let loose a dipping strike that skidded along the turf. Cherries’ stopper Begovic could only palm the effort into Salah’s path – who had made a run from an offside position – and the Egyptian duly applied a ruthless finish into the unguarded net.
In search of an immediate response, the home side hurtled forward through the ever-electric Fraser. The Scot combined with Stanislas along the left-hand channel before arching an inviting cross towards the far post. But as the ball dropped, the waiting Ake was unable to make connection, allowing Alisson to gratefully collect.
As the half-time whistle approached, Milner’s miscued aerial pass whistled back towards the Liverpool goal amidst the south coast wind. Alisson rose highest to collect but thundered into King in the process, leaving the Norwegian prostrate on the turf.
But after King’s rapid re-introduction, Liverpool eased into the interval with a slender lead.
Following the two sides’ reemergence, Cherries’ uphill task took another violent twist. Firmino robbed the hesitating Cook of possession and picked out the marauding Salah, who had burst forward centrally. The tricky winger danced towards goal, shrugged off the attentions of Cook, and slotted beyond Begovic with the aid of a slight deflection.
Back came the home side, now faced with an even more insurmountable task. King was twice presented with chances to halve the arrears, but couldn’t take down Stanislas’ dropping delivery on 51 minutes and rifled narrowly wide at the near post just seconds later.
Cook’s unfortunate afternoon continued on 68 minutes, as the visitors further thundered clear at the top of the league. Patient build-up between Fabinho and Robertson allowed the latter to cross into the penalty area. As Cook looked to clear his lines, the Cherries stalwart instead sliced the ball beyond Begovic and narrowly inside the right-hand post, sealing the points for Liverpool.
With all momentum firmly planted in the visitors’ favour, Cherries scrapped for a place on the score sheet.
Stanislas’ unerring set-piece from 20 yards was denied by Alisson on 70 minutes, before substitute Lys Mousset rifled home following Surman’s clever lobbed pass – only to see the strike chalked off by the linesman’s raised flag.
But there was still time for one more twist in the tale. Adam Lallana, who had been introduced for the visitors in the closing stages, looped a hopeful ball over the top of the home side’s backline. Cook, the remaining covering defender, was unable to clear on the stretch, allowing Salah to race through and bear down on Begovic’s goal.
The Egyptian coolly glided beyond the Bosnian, before cutting back on to his right boot. As Cook and Ake recovered, Salah once again drifted beyond Cherries’ goalkeeper before tapping home from a couple of yards.
Charlie Daniels thundered an effort narrowly over the crossbar in Bournemouth’s final chance of note, before Wijlandum spared the home side further blushes by glancing a header wide late on.
Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis, S. Cook, Ake, Daniels (Rico, 82), Stanislas (Mings, 82), Surman, Lerma, Fraser, Brooks (Mousset, 65), King
Unused substitutes: Boruc, Pugh, Ibe, Defoe
Liverpool: Alisson, Milner, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita (Lallana, 65), Shaqiri (Mane, 65), Salah, Firmino (Henderson, 81)
Unused substitutes: Mignolet, Sturridge, Origi, Alexander-Arnold