Clinical Mohamed Salah sets up Liverpool for their big week
BOURNEMOUTH, England -- Mohamed Salah scored a hat trick to help Liverpool thrash Bournemouth 4-0 and move to the top of the Premier League, for several hours, at least.
Salah, who is the first Liverpool player to score three times away from home in the Premier League since Luis Suarez at Cardiff in March 2014, opened the scoring in the 25th minute before slotting twice after half-time. The hosts' Steve Cook scored a spectacular own goal for Liverpool's third.
Any concerns about Salah's slow start to the season seem long in the past after he took his tally to 12 for the campaign in all competitions. Since the start of 2017-18, only Lionel Messi has more league goals in the top-five European divisions, and the 26-year-old is also delivering when Liverpool need him. His first here marked the seventh time this season he had scored the opening goal of a game, which is at least two more than any other player in the Premier League.
Only that Liverpool's stay at the summit of the table may be brief, with Manchester City in action against Chelsea later on Saturday. There was nothing wrong with the performance of Jurgen Klopp's side, who now get ready for a big week in which they host Napoli and Manchester United.
Manager Rating out of 10
8 -- After a shuffle at Burnley in midweek, Klopp named a more recognisable starting XI and was rewarded with a better performance. Liverpool's pressing was impressive, and the set-up presented plenty of opportunities for Salah to make runs through on goal.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 6 -- A quiet afternoon. He made a low stop to deny David Brooks in the first half before leaping incredibly high to head the ball clear.
DF James Milner, 7 -- Took one for the team by playing right-back on his 500th Premier League appearance, but despite that, made it two good performances in a matter of days for the 32-year-old.
DF Joel Matip, 6 -- Tougher tests than this will come for Matip with Napoli and Manchester United on the horizon and Dejan Lovren still out with a concussion.
DF Virgil van Dijk, 7 -- The centre-half won every header and duel. Inside the small Vitality Stadium, you could hear just how commanding he was.
DF Andrew Robertson, 7 -- Back in the lineup after a deserved rest at Burnley, normal service was resumed with the Scotland captain dependable as ever.
MF Fabinho, 7 -- Nothing flashy, but incredibly important as he continually broke up play in the centre of the pitch. Booked in the 70th minute after making a number of small fouls throughout the game.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 7 -- Like Fabinho's, Wijnaldum's performance will not claim the headlines but helped Liverpool's midfield to be incredibly solid.
MF Naby Keita, 7 -- Picked up immediately from where he left off at Burnley with a double nutmeg inside three minutes. He was very energetic on the left-hand side.
FW Xherdan Shaqiri, 6 -- Linked up well with Salah and Roberto Firmino and played some inviting through balls.
FW Mohamed Salah, 10 -- Clinical. His 42 league goals for Liverpool have come in just 52 games, faster than any other player in club history. He keeps breaking records and will continue to do so, given his eye for goal.
FW Roberto Firmino, 7 -- Played in the No. 10 role once again, but crucially did not drop deep too often. It was his ambitious shot that Asmir Begovic parried out for the opener, and Firmino also delivered the assist for Salah's second.
FW Sadio Mane, 6 -- Getting him back on the pitch was a massive boost, given he was a serious doubt for the game with a foot injury.
MF Adam Lallana, 6 -- He was left bleeding after a nasty clash of heads but did return.
MF Jordan Henderson, NR -- Brought on to give Firmino a breather.