Stop Mohamed Salah and you stop Liverpool? Not exactly. Bournemouth left Anfield having prevented the Egyptian from scoring or creating a goal. Their problem was that they also departed defeated by a record margin. Liverpool equalled the biggest ever Premier League win, set twice by Manchester United and once by Leicester, and their own biggest league victory, the famous 9-0 against Crystal Palace and a 10-1 demolition of Rotherham Town in 1896.
If there was an oddity that Jurgen Klopp’s 21st-century side mustered nine goals without their main marksman finding the net, the banned Darwin Nunez had further reasons to rue his absence. Even as Salah missed, others capitalised on Bournemouth’s abject haplessness. They took the opportunity to run riot.
Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho showed their rich promise as teenagers delivered classy first Premier League goals, but this was a second successive game at Anfield defined by the centre-forward. After Darwin Nunez’s headbutt against Palace, Roberto Firmino was a very different kind of headline act, and not merely because he is the false nine. Sometimes a selfless player’s contribution is scarcely reflected by statistics, but when he exited to a standing ovation the Brazilian had played his part in five goals, with a hat-trick of assists even before he got his first league strikes at Anfield since 2020.
Roberto Firmino was pivotal for Liverpool
(Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Firmino was ubiquitous and mischievous, displaying his full array of tricks. He had two assists after six minutes, albeit when one was accidental, and three after half an hour. If Salah’s misses prevented Liverpool from getting double figures, Luis Diaz bookended the scoring. While Nunez was supposed to be the signing from Portugal who added an aerial threat, the Colombian showed his spring with emphatic headers from Firmino’s early cross and the substitute Kostas Tsimikas’ late corner.
It prompted the Kop to call for a 10th goal and it was the sort of occasion when statistics flowed: not since 1958 had Liverpool been five up at half-time in a home league game. This replaced 2020’s 7-0 evisceration of Palace as their largest Premier League victory. The more immediate pertinence was to cast their slow start into perspective. Notions of crisis were nonsensical but a side who were poor at Manchester United on Monday had a point to prove. They made it, and emphatically.
The out of form surged back into it. Underachievers illustrated their ability. Trent Alexander-Arnold endured a traumatic night defensively at Old Trafford but showed his attacking excellence. He scored the pick of the goals, with an unstoppable shot from 25 yards. His passing was superb and it was his teasing cross that a sliding Chris Mepham diverted into his own net for Liverpool’s sixth goal. Virgil van Dijk, found faulty at the back, had little to do but ventured forward to head in Andy Robertson’s corner for the fifth.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s goal was the pick of the bunch
Firmino had toiled at Old Trafford, but was terrific. He delivered a double, stretching to volley in when Salah’s pass looped up off Marcus Tavernier to get his first league goal in 21 games at Anfield. His second came at the second attempt, as he stabbed the ball in when Mark Travers had pushed Robertson’s cross out.
If he has looked yesterday’s man at times, this was not one, but it was about Liverpool’s past and their future, the first definitive Klopp player and the men who could be constants for much of the 2020s. Elliott’s contribution was curtailed at half-time, but he was outstanding. He opened his top-flight account in style when the ball bounced off Firmino to him and he whipped in a shot from 25 yards. His was an eloquent case that Klopp does not need to buy another midfielder. Carvalho added to that argument, volleying in when the lively Tsimikas, who got two assists in his cameo, met Alexander-Arnold’s diagonal ball with a cushioned pass.
It was a statement of intent, and it had been from the start. It contained a rare luxury: a 1-0 lead for a team who had conceded first in their previous seven league games, though they only had three minutes to enjoy it before it was two.
They reverted to Klopp’s original blueprint: the early assault, the aim to win a game long before it was over. Yet they sustained their momentum, taking out their frustrations from a winless start as they carried on scoring. Liverpool were rampant and dominant, Bournemouth hapless and useless. Few Premier League sides will ever perform such an accurate impression of cannon fodder, but Liverpool gunned them down.