Belfast Telegraph

Five-star Liverpool humble Huddersfield and return to top of Premier League

Relegated Huddersfield no match for title hopefuls at Anfield.

Mohamed Salah celebrates his team’s third goal with fellow scorer Naby Keita (Peter Byrne/PA)
Mohamed Salah celebrates his team’s third goal with fellow scorer Naby Keita (Peter Byrne/PA)

Liverpool’s title destiny may still be out of their hands but they refuse to submit, with the 5-0 demolition of Huddersfield a reminder they are ready to pounce should Manchester City slip up.

The gap between top – the place occupied by Jurgen Klopp’s side after this victory – and bottom could not have been more glaring as the visitors were  outclassed at Anfield.

City, now two points behind with a game in hand, face a potentially tricky trip to Burnley knowing they cannot afford a mistake at this late stage of the campaign.

The relegated Terriers did themselves no favours after allowing Naby Keita to score after just 16 seconds, Liverpool’s quickest Premier League goal and their 100th in all competitions this season.

With principal owner John W Henry making a rare Anfield appearance Sadio Mane and Mohamed both scored twice.

Liverpool now have the Premier League’s top scorers this season (Salah 21, Mane 20) and with the team on course to reach 97 points it shows just how impressive City have had to be – and will still have to be – to deny the Reds their first title since 1990.

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Naby Keita was quick off the mark (Peter Byrne/PA)

The windy conditions posed more of a problem to Liverpool than Huddersfield did, although no-one noticed after Keita struck before some fans had taken their seats.

Jon Gorenc Stankovic was caught in possession by the Guinea international, who took the return pass from Salah to sweep home the second fastest goal in the club’s history, narrowly missing Paul Walsh’s 14-second record against West Ham in 1984.

Salah fired wide and Virgil Van Dijk headed over before the Holland defender strode out of defence to tee up an Andy Robertson cross which was met by Mane’s downward header.

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Sadio Mane doubled the lead at Anfield (Peter Byrne)

In doing so Robertson became the first Liverpool defender to provide 10 assists in a Premier League season and only the third in the competition’s history after Leighton Baines and Andy Hinchcliffe.

Opposite full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is only one behind, however, after he clipped the ball forward and Salah lobbed the advancing Jonas Lossl to score his 68th goal on his 100th appearance for the club – equalling the record of Roger Hunt and Sam Raybould.

Incredbly Salah, with 25 goals this season, was not even on the PFA shortlist but became only the third Liverpool player to score 20-plus Premier League goals in successive seasons after Robbie Fowler and Luis Suarez.

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Salah got the third goal (Peter Byrne/PA)

In the second half Mane lobbed over and Daniel Sturridge, making his first league start at Anfield since November 2017 after Roberto Firmino was left out with a minor muscle injury, had a goal ruled out for offside. In between Karlan Grant missed an open goal from four yards for the visitors.

Mane added another header, this time from a Henderson cross, and Liverpool were so comfortable they were able to give Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 20 minutes after 367 days out with a serious knee injury.

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returned on a good night for Liverpool, replacing Georginio Wijnaldum (AP)

He almost scored after his first couple of touches, denied by Lossl’s outstretched leg and while Mane was denied a hat-trick of headers by the post Salah could not miss from Robertson’s 11th assist of the campaign.

Liverpool’s thoughts now turn to the considerably more difficult proposition of Barcelona in the Nou Camp in a Champions League semi-final on Wednesday – but before then they may just be keeping an eye on events at Turf Moor on Sunday.

PA

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