Liverpool secured a top-four spot with very little fuss as Mohamed Salah’s new Premier League goalscoring record paved the way for a 4-0 victory over Brighton.
The Egypt international’s 32nd league goal – his 44th in all competitions – took him past the milestone for a 38-match season shared by Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.
Jurgen Klopp’s side needed only a point to retain their Champions League status for next season but with Chelsea losing at Newcastle, Dejan Lovren’s powerful header and first goals for the club by Dominic Solanke and Andy Robertson added more gloss to the result.
Brighton set up to frustrate but with their Premier League future safe there was little but pride to play for. They could easily have conceded five in the first half as they were fortunate not to have at least two penalties given against them.
It began to go wrong as early as the eighth minute when Shane Duffy, whose miserable afternoon was ended by injury in the second half, mis-hit a back-pass to present Solanke with a chance but although he nutmegged Mat Ryan he allowed the goalkeeper to recover.
When Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross hit Duffy’s arm referee Kevin Friend could easily have pointed to the spot – as he could after the defender’s 18th-minute lunge on Salah – but seemed in no mood to make things easier for the hosts.
Sadio Mane should have scored in a one-on-one with Ryan but shot straight at the goalkeeper with Roberto Firmino alongside him.
Salah eventually took matters into his own hands for his history-making moment as Solanke, who did a good job in tight spaces all afternoon, squeezed the ball through to his team-mate with the outside of his boot and the Egyptian swept home left-footed.
Only Manchester United and Swansea have prevented Salah scoring this season.
Mane’s dodgy decision-making continued when next time he was clean through he opted to square to Salah, who led Tottenham’s Harry Kane by three goals in the race for the Golden Boot heading into the game, and his shot was smothered by Ryan with Duffy clearing the rebound off the line.
Firmino, twice, and Georginio Wijnaldum also had chances to score before the unmarked Lovren charged in at the far post just before half-time to power home Robertson’s cross, with his arms-outstretched celebration mimicking that of Salah.
Brighton looked incapable of fighting back and after Firmino’s low shot was saved by Ryan early in the second half the hosts scored a trademark counter-attack goal.
Jordan Henderson’s quick ball out to the touchline was kept in by Firmino, who slipped it inside to Salah and there was only ever likely to be one outcome.
The Egyptian moved through the gears, leaving Brighton players in his wake, before sliding a pass for Solanke to rifle a shot into the roof of the net and end a 617-minute wait for his goal since arriving from Chelsea in the summer.
In teeing him up Salah became the first Liverpool player since Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard to register both 10 Premier League goals and 10 assists in a single season.
He should have had another assist only for Firmino to shoot at Ryan but the day of firsts was not over as Robertson drilled home after substitute Danny Ings’ cross rebounded to him.
Next stop Kiev for the Champions League final against Real Madrid, who will provide a much tougher examination.