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The 'other' Premier League race is on - Mane and Salah fighting it out for Golden Boot

5:07 AM MYT 27/04/2019
Mohamed Salah Sadio Mane Liverpool
The Liverpool duo both scored twice as Huddersfield were battered 5-0 at Anfield on Friday evening

It’s not just the title race which is going down to the wire.

The battle for the Premier League Golden Boot is hotting up too. And as with the big prize, Liverpool are looking to land it.

Heading back to the top of the table, for 48 hours at least, the Reds had far, far too much for Huddersfield here, administering a 5-0 thrashing that, had it been a boxing match, would have been waved off inside 20 minutes.

Or 20 seconds, maybe.

Naby Keita’s goal, timed at just 15 seconds, set Jurgen Klopp’s side on their way. After that, it was down to the familiar faces to have their fun.

Sadio Mane headed home a second midway through the half, a goal which took him level with Mohamed Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero at the top of the Premier League scoring charts.

Not to be outdone, Salah got in on the act before half-time, his assured lob taking him to 20 in the league for the second campaign in a row. Not since Luis Suarez in 2014 has a Liverpool player managed that particular feat.

Liverpool had two players on 20 or more that season, and they can boast the same this time around too as Mane headed home his second of the night from a Jordan Henderson cross on 66 minutes. He should have had another soon after, too, only this time he headed against the post from close range.

That could prove costly in the race for the Golden Boot, as Salah regained top spot soon after, converting another Andy Robertson assist in front of the Kop. The Scot now has 11 league assists for the season, tying a Premier League record for a defender. If there's a better left back around right now, he's well hidden.

For Liverpool, the simplicity of this win was remarkable. They didn’t even play particularly well in the first half, but they walked through the evening. They got five and could have had more. With a Champions League trip to Barcelona on the horizon, it was the perfect scenario. They could manage their fitness, in-game.

Klopp left Roberto Firmino, his third attacking musketeer, out of this one, the Brazilian having complained of a muscle injury after training on Thursday. Firmino’s absence afforded Daniel Sturridge a rare – and perhaps farewell? – Anfield appearance. He couldn't mark it with a goal.

They were able, too, to give Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his first competitive minutes since the knee injury he suffered against Roma, a year and two days ago. The England midfielder got the loudest cheer of the night as he replaced Sturridge for the last 17 minutes. Had Jonas Lossl not been in party-pooping mode, he would have marked his return with a goal, too.

Huddersfield arrived having taken just four points of the last 69 available. Their plan, you suspect, was to stay compact, to frustrate, to keep it tight and see where it took them.

You can imagine the shouts as Jan Siewert’s men left the dressing room.

“First 10, eh? Nothing silly.”

In fairness, they held out for the first 10.

Seconds.

But then Jon Gorenc Stankovic attempted a lazy pass across his own box and found Salah. Not advisable.

Salah found Naby Keita who, via the inside of the far post, found the net. Timed at 15 seconds, it was the quickest goal Liverpool have scored in the Premier League, the second-fastest in the club’s history. Only Paul Walsh, who found the net after just 14 seconds against West Ham in August 1984, can better it.

Game over? It certainly felt that way, although Huddersfield did at least rally after the setback. Well, they forced a few corners. Liverpool, in second gear at best, buried them by half-time, and cruised through the second period.

Focus will now turn to Sunday, and Manchester City’s trip to Burnley. Liverpool have done all they can do for another week. Their deadly duo have them top of the league, and are fighting it out among themselves for the personal prize.