Mohamed Salah returned to his inspirational best as he scored four goals and set up another in Liverpool's crushing 5-0 Premier League win over Watford, bouncing back from defeat to Manchester United in style.
The Egypt star may have been nullified by United's Ashley Young at Old Trafford last time out, but the real Salah was back with a point to prove and he made it in emphatic fashion, moving on to 36 Liverpool goals and setting up Roberto Firmino's stunning second-half effort.
Liverpool were ahead as early as the fourth minute, with Salah getting Jurgen Klopp's side off to a fine start at Anfield courtesy of an excellent run and finish.
It took a while, but Liverpool did eventually add a second just before the break – Salah, predictably, the scorer from close range, taking his tally to 34 for the season, the most any player has managed in a debut campaign for the Reds.
And he then turned provider early in the second period, setting up Roberto Firmino's outrageous finish to leave Watford reeling.
The hosts' more relaxed approach towards the end should have offered the Hornets some respite, but things only got worse as Salah added another two late on to round off a remarkable individual display – the Merseyside club moving back to within two points of second-placed United.
SAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 17, 2018
HE'S ON FIRE!
Watford were behind early on as Liverpool seized the advantage through the irresistible Salah.
The visitors afforded Salah too much space on the right flank and he darted into the box, turning Miguel Britos inside-out and leaving him on his backside before finishing right-footed under Orestis Karnezis.
Liverpool supporters who were expecting the floodgates to open were initially left disappointed, with proceedings falling rather flat for the most part.
The hosts did not threaten again until the 39th minute, when Salah was released on the break to feed Roberto Firmino, whose brilliant first touch took him away from Jose Holebas and opened up the space for a shot which Karnezis did well to save.
But the goalkeeper was helpless soon after as Andrew Robertson raided up the left flank and delivered across the face of goal for Salah to tap in arguably his most straightforward effort of a prolific season.
Salah played the role of creator shortly after the restart, crossing between Karnezis and his defenders for Firmino, who produced a brilliant flicked finish while airborne.
Another beautiful flick from Bobby to add to his collection.— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 17, 2018
23 goals for Firmino this season. pic.twitter.com/vSfeA8WPGx
Javi Gracia's men nearly pulled one back soon after when a Roberto Pereyra free-kick caught Loris Karius out and came back off the crossbar.
But that was the only worrying moment to trouble Liverpool, as they ultimately blasted Watford away by adding another two goals in the final 13 minutes.
Salah completed his first hat-trick for the club with a typically clever bit of play, finding the bottom-left corner despite being surrounded by three defenders, before wrapping up the rout by smashing home a rebound from close range.
Key Opta Stats:
- This was Jurgen Klopp’s 50th Premier League home game in charge of Liverpool (W28 D18 L4). The Reds have averaged 2.20 goals per game since Klopp took over – their highest goals per game ratio at Anfield in the competition under any manager.
- Watford have lost 10 of their 11 top-flight away games against Liverpool, winning only in August 1999 on what was the Hornets' first visit in the Premier League (1-0).
- Mohamed Salah has scored 36 goals for Liverpool in all competitions – the most by a single player in their debut season for the Reds.