- Liverpool go one point ahead of Manchester City at the top of the table after breezing past Bournemouth
- Mohamed Salah opened the scoring for Liverpool after following up on Roberto Firmino’s saved shot
- Replays showed that the Egyptian forward was in an offside position before scoring from the rebound
- Salah doubled Liverpool’s advantage with a precise finish into the bottom corner after Firmino won ball back
- Steve Cook diverted Andy Robertson’s cross into his own net to assure Liverpool of the three points
He’s not bad, that Mohamed Salah. Be it running down the wing, as the song goes, or running laps around Asmir Begovic for the hat-trick, he really is half decent at this lark.
That it was ever in doubt feels a little silly now. Most folk thought it, and there’s no great shame in that – his standard at the start of the campaign was just not quite what it was last time round.
And yet here we are in December and he is very much the star on the tree, shining ever brighter the colder it gets. Look at the numbers and just take them in.
Mohamed Salah is embraced by his team-mates after completing his hat-trick that sent Liverpool top of the table
Salah takes the ball around Bournemouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic for a second time to complete his hat-trick
Salah takes his time with the goal at his mercy before calmly slotting it past the covering Bournemouth defenders
Salah finds the bottom corner to score Liverpool’s second goal of the game just after the half-time interval
Virgil van Dijk points at his Liverpool team-mate after he doubled Liverpool’s lead against Bournemouth
Salah slots past Bournemouth’s Begovic after following up on Roberto Firmino’s long-range effort on goal
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
Bournemouth (4-4-1-1): Begovic 5; Francis 6, Cook 4, Ake 5.5, Daniels 6 (Rico 83); Stanislas 6 (Mings 83), Lerma 6, Surman 6, Fraser 6; Brooks 6 (Mousset 64, 6); King 5.5
Subs not used: Boruc, Pugh, Ibe, Defoe
Booked: Ake, Lerma
Manger: Eddie Howe 5.5
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson 6.5; Milner 7, Matip 5.5, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 6; Fabinho 6.5, Wijnaldum 7, Keita 6.5 (Lallana 64, 6); Shaqiri 7 (Mane 64, 6), Salah 8.5, Firmino 7 (Henderson 81)
Subs not used: Sturridge, Mignolet, Origi, Alexander-Arnold
Goalscorers: Salah 25, 48, 77, Cook own goal 68
Manager: Jurgen Klopp 7
Referee: Lee Mason 6
Man of the Match: Mohamed Salah
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Roberto Firmino wins the ball back and feeds Mohamed Salah for Liverpool’s second. CLICK HERE for more from MATCH ZONE
Nine goals in his past 10 starts since October 20, if you count all the competitions, and 12 since the beginning in August – the opposite of the fair-weather footballer and the opposite of a one-season wonder, too.
More than that, he may just be the best hope we all have for an interesting title race, as well, given Liverpool are seemingly the only team with the capacity to rival Manchester City and Salah is the most marvellous part of it.
That’s not to say they are a one-man band, certainly not. A ludicrous thing to argue when the XI here contained Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and Roberto Firmino and Jurgen Klopp had the luxury of starting Sadio Mane on the bench.
But it is equally obvious that the team is elevated to another plain when the Egyptian is on form, as goals one, two and four in this match showed, with Steve Cook scoring an own goal for the third.
It was Liverpool’s fifth win in succession and all the other figures paint a rosy picture. Quite aside from Liverpool hitting their highest ever points tally for this stage of a Premier League season, they have also matched 2008 for their best ever sequence without defeat – 17 games, factoring in the final game of last season. Good going, that.
For Bournemouth, who were without Callum Wilson because of a hamstring problem, it was actually a decent first half, to the point it was debatable whether they deserved to be 1-0 down, especially as the goal was marginally offside.
Naby Keita and Firmino rush to congratulate their Egyptian team-mate after he opened the scoring on the south coast
The Egyptian forward was in an offside position when Roberto Fimino struck his speculative effort on goal
Bournemouth players appeal in vain for the offside flag but the assistant referee is unmoved on the touchline
Liverpool captain for the day James Milner, making his 500th Premier League appearance, challenges with Junior Stanislas
Liverpool midfielder Keita avoids a sliding challenge from Bournemouth’s Jefferson Lerma in the early stages
But top teams can undo good efforts in brutal ways and that was the tale of the second half, meaning it is now five defeats in six games after a nasty run of fixtures. Tellingly, perhaps, even Manchester City on their own pitch couldn’t do as much damage to Howe’s side as Liverpool did.
And that with a side featuring five changes to the one that beat Burnley in midweek. Joe Gomez, Alberto Moreno, Jordan Henderson, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge stepped out and Joel Matip, Andrew Robertson, Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and Salah came in – a mark of their squad strength is that neither of the selections was weak.
The only personnel concern for Klopp came from the loss of Gomez to his broken leg against Burnley, and with Trent Alexander-Arnold needing a rest, that positioned James Milner at right-back for his 500th Premier League match.
Judging from how often Bournemouth attacked his flank, they saw him as a target, but it says much about Milner’s reliability that so little came of the attacks. Ryan Fraser, David Brooks and Junior Stanislas were all given a crack in the left wing spot and save for a spell early in the second half, they got no return from the 32-year-old.
Bournemouth were without star striker Callum Wilson for the visit of title challengers Liverpool to the Vitality Stadium
Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum gets his foot on the ball in the middle of the park in the early kick-off
Nathan Ake was shown an early yellow card by referee Lee Mason for this deliberate hand ball from Roberto Firmino’s pass
That is not to say Liverpool looked entirely strong at the back because there were vulnerabilities. Inside three minutes, Alisson spilled a pass to Fraser and midway through the period Joel Matip’s questionable positioning let Brooks in for a good chance. Added to a volley at the far post that Nathan Ake miscued at 1-0 down, they were shaky moments from Liverpool.
But that is part of the beauty of their season. On the back of a reasonably understated half, they were still able to close the period in front, albeit fortuitously, with Begovic palming straight to Salah after a long-range shot from Firmino. A replay showed Salah was a shade offside at the point of Firmino’s strike.
Salah’s second could be traced to an error by Cook, who gave away possession to Firmino, but following his lay off to Salah, it was about the brilliance of the Egyptian. With Cook kicking at his heels on the chase, the forward raced away, sidestepped Ake and beat Begovic.
Hat-trick hero Salah looks to get the ball under control but shoots wide when looking to get an effort in on goal
Bournemouth striker Josh King gets the ball under control despite the wet conditions as James Milner looks to cover
Welsh international David Brooks gets a shot away for Bournemouth but sees his effort saved by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson rises highest to punch away the cross as Jefferson Lerma looks to get his head on the ball
Mohamed Salah is tripped by Bournemouth’s Steve Cook but stays on his feet before slotting in Liverpool’s second goal
Adam Lallana is introduced in the second-half of the game as Keita makes way in a Jurgen Klopp reshuffle
Cook then inadvertently diverts the ball into the back of his own net off the back of his heel for Liverpool’s third goal
Bournemouth had a pair of changes in retaliation but were killed off when Cook backheeled a volley past Begovic off an Andrew Robertson delivery.
The centre-half’s miserable afternoon cranked up when a loose ball off his challenge put Salah through for his hat-trick goal. Salah subsequently ran around Begovic twice before flicking past Ake on the line.
A master at work, really.
Substitute Adam Lallana sustained a cut to the head after a clash for the ball during his 25-minute cameo
The England midfielder receives some treatment from the physio and mops his head to stop the flow of blood