Philippe Coutinho was in dazzling form as Liverpool got back to winning ways with an impressive 4-0 victory over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday.
A scintillating solo strike and an assist from Coutinho lifted Jurgen Klopp's side back up to fourth after successive draws against Everton and West Brom saw the gap to the top three widen.
Coutinho started wide on the left as Sadio Mane was granted a rest under the rotation policy for which Klopp has come under fire and the Brazilian quickly set about ensuring the scrutiny of his manager would be minimal with a fine individual goal.
Klopp this week lauded Liverpool's scouting department for their role in the signing of Mohamed Salah from Roma and they may be expecting further praise after the winger added to Dejan Lovren's header by slotting his 20th goal of 2017-18 home before half-time.
Simon Mignolet - back between the posts in place of Loris Karius - had little to contend with in the Liverpool goal and the visitors were out of sight when Roberto Firmino nodded Coutinho's cross home in the second half, though replays suggested he may have been offside.
Salah, Firmino and Coutinho all made way in the second half as, with victory on the south coast secure, Klopp turned his attention to a huge clash with fellow Champions League chasers Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Friday.
FULL-TIME Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool
Coutinho, Lovren, Salah & Firmino fire @LFC back into the top four #BOULIV pic.twitter.com/hGwpJFXG6K — Premier League (@premierleague) December 17, 2017
With less than 11 minutes played, Nathan Ake was booked for tugging Firmino down on the edge of the box and Coutinho saw a sweetly struck free-kick hit the inside of the right-hand upright and bounce away from goal.
The Brazilian was not to be denied at the next attempt, though. Coutinho dribbled at speed down the left, cut inside Simon Francis and slotted a fine effort inside the near post after beating Lewis Cook.
Liverpool added a second six minutes later when Firmino stopped the ball crossing the byline by hooking it into the six-yard box on the volley for Lovren to finish with a diving header.
Klopp's energetic side had been dominant but eased off before half-time and Bournemouth – who lost Josh King to injury in the 31st minute – would have punished them had Jermain Defoe's 39th-minute effort not come back off the post.
Asmir Begovic denied Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Salah as Liverpool responded positively, and the Reds enhanced their advantage when the Egyptian raced down the outside of Charlie Daniels on the right before shifting the ball onto his left foot and picking out the far corner.
Liverpool struggled to maintain their intensity after the restart and it was not until Oxlade-Chamberlain dispossessed former Red Jordon Ibe and surged into the box only to hit the upright with a powerful left-footed strike that they threatened again.
Defoe was unable to get the better of Mignolet from the edge of the area and Liverpool had maximum points secured when Firmino ghosted into space between two Bournemouth defenders to head Coutinho's delivery home.
Klopp sent Adam Lallana on in place of Salah for just his second appearance of an injury-plagued season with under 20 minutes remaining.
Danny Ings then hit the side-netting and Lallana looped a stoppage-time header over after Begovic kept out Dominic Solanke, but Liverpool had done enough to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to 12 matches.
Key Opta stats:
- Liverpool are the first team in top-flight history to have won four consecutive away games by a margin of at least three goals.
- Mo Salah became the first Premier League player to reach 20 goals in all competitions this season. He’s also the first Liverpool player since Luis Suarez (31) and Daniel Sturridge (24) in 2013-14 to score at least 20 goals in a single campaign.
- Roberto Firmino has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other Liverpool player since he joined at the start of 2015-16 (44, 27 goals, 17 assists).
- Philippe Coutinho has been directly involved in 15 goals in his last 10 away games for Liverpool in all competitions (8 goals, 7 assists).
- No team has scored more away goals in the Premier League this season than Liverpool (24, level with Manchester City).