Super Salah hits top form with Napoli tie on horizon
Bournemouth 0 Liverpool 4
The general consensus seems to be that Mohamed Salah has not been quite the same player this season. On this evidence there is nothing to worry about after the striker produced a wonderful individual display that could not have been more timely as attention turns to Tuesday's Champions League tie against Napoli.
He scored a hat-trick that was completed in style as Liverpool racked up a fifth successive Premier League win to extend their unbeaten record to 16 games. It was a chastening match for Bournemouth, especially Steve Cook, who scored a farcical own goal and also had a hand in two of Salah's strikes.
That should take nothing away from Salah, though, who was unplayable in the second half. His third goal, when he took on the Bournemouth defence almost single-handedly, was a beauty. By that point Eddie Howe and his players must have been desperate to hear the final whistle. Liverpool, in contrast, march on.
"Whatever you do in a football game you need someone to finish it off, and what Mo did around his two goals in the second half is just exceptional," said Jurgen Klopp. "I don't know many players who would score those two goals."
The game was a slow burner for 25 minutes. Then Liverpool got a break courtesy of a goalkeeping error from Asmir Begovic and, perhaps more significantly, the assistant referee's failure to notice Salah had strayed offside before giving Liverpool the lead.
A neat exchange between Roberto Firmino and Salah ended with the Brazilian striking a bouncing ball from 25 yards that Begovic spilt. Salah, onto the loose ball in a flash, prodded home from 12 yards with the Bournemouth goalkeeper prone. Salah's initial reaction said it all - he immediately looked in the direction of Marc Perry, the assistant referee on that side of the pitch, expecting to see the flag raised. The goal was allowed to stand, however, and Bournemouth were chasing the game.
Their case was not helped by the absence of Callum Wilson, their leading goalscorer, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Gareth Southgate was in the crowd and presumably had come to watch the Bournemouth forward - assuming he is not planning on trying to persuade James Milner to pull on an England shirt again.
Milner, making a 500th Premier League appearance, lined up at right-back for Liverpool for a match in which Jürgen Klopp made five changes to the team who won at Burnley. Naby Keïta and Fabinho started a league game together for the first time, with the former drifting towards the left flank, and there were also recalls for Andrew Robertson and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Bournemouth's best move of the first half arrived a couple of minutes prior to Salah's opening goal. Josh King, cutting in from the left, played a neat one-two before sliding a clever reverse ball into the path of David Brooks. With the angle against him, Brooks hit a left-footed shot that Alisson repelled at his near post.
Whatever Howe said at half-time felt redundant three minutes into the second half as Bournemouth, and Cook in particular, pressed the self-destruct button. The central defender was just inside his own half when he gifted possession to Firmino with a loose pass and was fortunate not to be booked for crudely trying to bring Salah down seconds later.
Salah just about managed to stay on his feet and when Nathan Aké kept backing off, retreating into his own area, the Liverpool forward accepted the invitation to shift the ball on to his left foot. His low, angled shot found the far corner almost in slow motion and via a slight touch off the bottom of Aké's right boot.
Howe made a change, replacing Brooks with Lys Mousset, but any hope that substitution might give Bournemouth some fresh impetus evaporated three minutes later when Cook's experience went from bad to worse. Robertson got forward on the left and delivered a cross that Cook somehow managed to backheel past Begovic.
Salah was not finished and inflicted more torment on Cook when he scored his third. This time it was Adam Lallana, a second-half substitute, who played the through ball. Cook, running shoulder to shoulder with the Liverpool striker, tried to nudge the ball away but succeeded only in putting it in Salah's path.
The rest was a joy to watch as Salah rounded Begovic, checked back inside, sat the Bournemouth goalkeeper on his backside for a second time, then flicked the ball into the net with the outside of his boot.
Sunday Indo Sport