By Matt Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez
Liverpool climbed to the top of the Premier League table for at least a few hours following a 4-0 win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
An own goal from Steve Cook and a Mohamed Salah hat-trick secured the points for Jürgen Klopp, with his side dominating in their visit to the south coast.
Questions surrounded the Egyptian’s first, but there was nothing but praise for the Egyptian after he capped off his hat-trick by embarrassing Cook and the rest of the Bournemouth defence to secure dominant victory for the Reds, who stretch their unbeaten start to the season to 16.
The midweek injury to Joe Gomez saw a makeshift back four take the field with James Milner again proving his versatility, being deployed at right back. Andrew Robertson returned to the starting line-up after injury concerns kept him out at Burnley, and both Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita retained their places after impressing in midweek.
It was a scrappy start to the half with referee Lee Mason making it clear that he wouldn’t stand for much, brandishing two yellow cards for Bournemouth in the opening 15 minutes of the game. Bournemouth’s game plan seemed to limit Liverpool’s time on the ball, not allowing the Reds anytime to settle and pick their heads up.
Eddie Howe’s men did well to limit Liverpool to any chances of note, but saw his side go behind in the 25th minute after Roberto Firmino unleashed a left footed shot from outside the box, following some good link up play with Salah.
Asmir Begovic was able to make the save, but could not hold the strike, parrying the ball into the direction of the onrushing Salah who slotted it easily into the empty net. Calls for offside rang round the Vitality to no avail, the goal stood, and Klopp’s men had the lead.
After going behind, Bournemouth increased the pressure on the make-shift visiting defence, with Joshua King in particular looking like the biggest threat to Virgil Van Dijk and co. Alisson had one of his more eventful days in the Liverpool goal, being forced to clatter into King and heading away a loose clearance by James Milner.
Despite this, the Reds never looked in any danger of conceding, with the home side visibly missing top goal-scorer Callum Wilson – who missed the game through injury.
It was 1-0 at halftime, and within three minutes of the restart Salah had doubled both his total and the lead. Steve Cook gave the ball away to Firmino who lifted his head and played the ball to the number 11 who was in acres of space.
The Egyptian took off, charging at the retreating Bournemouth defence before driving into the box and slotting it into the bottom right hand corner passed the sprawling Begovic.
After the second goal Liverpool were in cruise control, passing their way through the Bournemouth players to the audible joy of the travelling Kopites.
Their dominance was extended in the 67th minute as their lead was increased to three. Fabinho set Andrew Robertson free down the left-hand side and the Scot whipped in a cross in trademark fashion. Cook got a boot to the ball, directing it away from any of Liverpool’s attackers but into his own net.
The damage didn’t end there for Bournemouth, with Salah yet again tormenting their defence. A ball over the top by Lallana wasn’t dealt with again by Cook and the Egyptian King was in on goal.
The PFA player of the year proceeded to toy with the Bournemouth defence, rounding Begovic not once, but twice, before flicking it passed a helpless Nathan Ake who was stood on the line.
The result sees Liverpool pick up their third Premier League win in seven days following their victories in the Merseyside Derby last Sunday and at Burnley midweek.
Their return to winning ways will be welcomed by Jürgen Klopp, as the Reds now face a jam-packed Christmas period which sees them take on Napoli, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City.