Liverpool decimated a strong Crystal Palace team 7-0 at Palace’s home-ground Selhurst Park on Saturday. Roberto Firmino and substitute Mohamed Salah scored two goals each, while Takumi Minamino, captain Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mané added one apiece. The result lifts Liverpool, at least temporarily, six points clear at the top of the Premier League. Here’s five things we learned from the Red’s masterclass.
Liverpool finally mean business
It's been a curious season, dominated by the covid-19 pandemic, which has led to a fixture glut, have made bringing back fans to stadiums difficult and has resulted in injuries across the board. But the defending champions seem to have regained their mojo. This was the Liverpool of last season, when they steamrollered the opposition to race away with the title. For much of the season so far, Liverpool have been unconvincing, as injuries piled up and concentration slipped. In fact, the win at Selhurst Park was the team’s first away win all season. However, with seven goals scored from seven shots on target, Liverpool are now back to their ruthless best. The team now enters a busy festive period, but each of the next three games look very winnable. This is an ominous sign for their challengers.
Mo Salah is in irresistible form
Somewhat under the radar, Mohamed Salah has now racked up 13 league goals already. Rested at the start of the game, he came on as a second half substitute and still managed to score two goals, one of which was an absolute peach of a shot from outside the penalty area. Salah looks to be in the mood, and right now it seems to be a question of when, not if, he’ll get to 20 goals this season. An early frontrunner for the Golden Boot.
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Takumi Minamino give Jürgen Klopp options
Liverpool bought Takumi Minamino exactly a year ago today, and the striker finally had his first Liverpool goal. And an excellent poacher’s finish it was too, taking advantage of Palace defenders’ disarray to fire a shot home to open the scoring in the third minute. He buzzed around with intent all match linking up play intelligently. Even more heartening for manager Jürgen Klopp was the sight of Roberto Firmino getting back among the goals. After his injury-time winner against Chelsea last week, Firmino gave a masterclass of how to play the false number 9. Dropping deep into midfield and stitching moves together as only he can, his first goal was brilliant. Following the breakdown of a Palace attack, Firmino was in the right back position when he fed left back Andy Robertson with a superb ball into the left wing. And he set off for the Palace box. Robertson then played a perfect cross which the onrushing Firmino killed with a feather touch before slotting it past the goalkeeper nonchalantly. With questiona marks cropping up about his form earlier in the season, Firmino seems back to his best. Sadio Mané scored a beautiful goal in the first half too, and was extremely upset when he was substituted for Salah in the second half. Klopp’s attackers are firing on all cylinders.
Liverpool dominate midfield
Despite all the heroics further up-field, captain Jordan Henderson turned in a man-of-the-match worthy performance in the Liverpool midfield. Constantly shouting at his teammates and guiding them through phases of play, he was the driving heart of a Liverpool midfield that completely nullified the normally solid four-man Palace midfield. His efforts were capped with a glorious goal in the second half. Henderson might be the most indispensible member of the Liverpool team right now.
Liverpool’s injury-stricken players are returning
Liverpool aren’t the only team hit by a raft of injuries to important players, but they’re among the worst. While defensive lynchpin Virgil van Dijk is a long-term absentee, along side his central defensive partner Joe Gomez, the others seem to be on their way back. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finally got on the football pitch for the first time this season after picking up an injury in pre-season. Star buy Thiago is again training with the team and he could be back in the squad in early January, while striker Xerdan Shaqiri is also edging back to match fitness. Despite these injury misses, the fact that Liverpool are still six points clear is testament to the ‘mentality monsters’ ethic instilled in them by Jürgen Klopp.