Liverpool will be top of the Premier League table at Christmas after a huge 7-0 win away to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
A brace from Roberto Firmino, two goals from substitute Mohamed Salah, and one strike apiece from Takumi Minamino, Jordan Henderson, and Sadio Mane sealed the Reds’ barnstorming win.
And it’s not as if the defending champions were at their best for the entirety of the ninety minutes, with large swarths of the first half — despite Liverpool going into the interval 3-0 to the good — being dominated by the hosts.
Jurgen Klopp’s men started brightly and had their opening goal after only two minutes of play. Trent Alexander Arnold’s arching pass found Mane in the box and the Senegalese, so nimble with his footwork, wriggled free of the challenge of a Palace defender. The number 10 then picked out a pass to Minamino who — after a beautiful first touch — evaded a defender with a body feint before smashing low and hard past Vicente Guiata.
After an enterprising first ten minutes, though, the Reds drifted out of the game for the next 25 minutes. Palace, with Wilfried Zaha, Eberechi Eze, Jeffrey Schlupp and Andre Ayew all prominent, pushed on in search of an equaliser and had Liverpool’s defence sweating on numerous occasions.
Their best chance came when a long, clipped ball into the channel saw Ayew outmuscle Fabinho before and powering his way into the box. The Ghanian, though, opted to square to Zaha from inside the six-yard box — instead of, as he should have, shooting — and the ball was behind the Ivorian, who surely would have scored, and Liverpool escaped.
But despite being in the ascendancy, in terms of openings, Palace couldn’t capitalise and the Reds gave them a lesson in clinical finishing when they took the score to 2-0 on the 35th-minute mark. A scrap for the ball on the edge of the home teams area saw Firmino pilfer possession and find Mane. The Senegalese clever turn spun Nathaniel Clyne and in the next motion he walloped a finish past Guatia into the bottom left corner to give the visitors a hardly merited two-goal margin.
With Liverpool threatening to disappear over the horizon, Palace had to commit men forward in an attempt to wrestle the game back in their favours. These forays forward left them exposed at the back and the Reds added their third goal of the half through a counter-attack.
Firmino started the move by deftly controlling a ball from a Palace corner in his own box. The Brazilian picked out the raiding Andrew Robertson and the Scot powered into space with the ball before returning the favour with a sublime chipped pass to his number 9. Firmino’s touch was velvet smooth and in the next motion — with a trademark no-look finish — he cooly swept the ball past Guaita to give the Reds’ a 3-0 lead at the break.
If the first half was an even affair, the second period was nothing of the sort and Liverpool — with the result in the bag — showed their class and dominated from the first whistle of the half until the last.
They got their goal-scoring act underway seven minutes into the new half when Henderson — after a flowing move from the back — delicately curled a first time shot from Alexander Arnold’s pass into the top corner for a picture book goal.
Minamino and Naby Keita, two of the four changes from the victory over Tottenham, reveled in the second half and Liverpool ought to have had another goal when the Guinean’s run and pass released the Japanese international — whose sublime touch brought him through on goal — into space, but he fired wide when he should have scored.
That said, the fifth goal didn’t take long to arrive. After Alexander Arnold’s sweeping pass found Salah, the Egyptian beautifully angled a left-footed pass into Firmino’s feet, and, bearing down on goal, the Brazilian lifted the ball over the onrushing Guaita for 5-0.
Salah, hungry for the Golden Boot, finished the scoring with two more goals. The first was a goal of pure poachers instinct as he headed home inside the six-yard box after Joel Matip’s header from a corner fell into his path.
The next was a worthy goal to finish off a brilliant afternoon. Controlling a cross-field pass from replacement Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, the Egyptian’s first touch was sublime, allowing him to cut into the centre of the pitch and he mesmerizingly bent the ball into the top corner from outside the box to put the icing on the cake and send Liverpool top.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita; Mane, Firmino, Minamino.
Replacements: Salah for Mane, Oxlade Chamberlain for Wijnaldum, Jones for Firmino.
Subs not used: Kelleher, Adrian, R.Williams, N.Williams, Origi, Phillips.
Referee: John Moss.