The Reds will hold onto top spot for a few hours at least as the Citizens do not play until this evening when they head to Chelsea at 5.30pm. In the meantime, Jürgen Klopp’s men held a point’s advantage over the holders.
Liverpool were dominant on the South Coast and took the lead after 25 minutes when Salah instinctively followed Roberto Firmino‘s speculative strike and tucked home after Cherries keeper Asmir Begović spilled the Brazilian’s effort into his path.
The Egyptian doubled up three minutes into the second half, holding off the attention of two Bournemouth defenders before sliding the ball past Begović with the aid of a deflection.
But what did we learn from the Reds’ victory? Here are five talking points from the game…
Magical Mo leaves Reds Salah-vating
The Liverpool No.11 must enjoy making pundits and fans alike look silly. When the Reds £37million to sign him from Roma last season the consensus was they had overpaid for a winger who had flopped in his previous stint in the Premier League with Chelsea.
Fast-forward nine months and Salah was the King of Anfield having scored an incredible 44 goals in all competitions to win the PFA Player of the Year, Premier League Player of the Year and FWA Player of the Year awards – as well as, unsurprisingly, the Golden Boot.
He was onto a hiding to nothing trying to top – or even equal – that and, inevitably, criticism followed. But Salah has 12 goals in all competitions for the Reds this season after his his hat-trick at the Vitality Stadium.
He even broke a record in the process, becoming the quickest Liverpool player to 40 Premier League strikes – ahead of Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Fernando Torres and Luis Suárez. Not bad company to keep.
Each strike encapsulated a different aspect of his brilliantly varied game.
The first was a poacher’s effort, following in when strike partner Firmino let fly with a speculative half volley from 25 yards. The gamble was repaid when Begović spilled the Brazilian’s shot into his path and Salah could not miss. The second saw him display great balance and poise to hold off Cook and Nathan Aké before slotting home.
The third, though, was the piece de resistance. First he dumped the hapless Cook on his backside before rounding Begović – not once but twice – then poking the ball home with the outside of his left boot having left a trail of destruction behind him.
He should be incredible once he hits top form…
Milner marks milestone in typical fashion
The 500th Premier League appearance of James Milner‘s career was, typically, marked by the versatile midfielder slotting in at right-back.
There had been some suggestion summer signing Fabinho would drop back into defence – a position he has occupied before at former club Monaco – but Klopp confirmed prior to kick-off that Liverpool’s Mr Versatile would play there instead.
500 – James Milner will make his 500th Premier League appearance in this match, becoming the 13th player to reach this landmark. He is the 2nd youngest to do so aged 32y 338d, behind only Gareth Barry (32y 219d). Milestone. #BOULIV pic.twitter.com/8TVUcIrcoB
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 8, 2018
Twice a Premier League winner at Manchester City, the 32-year-old has always been an unfussy type and it is that, coupled with his dedication, professionalism and reliability, which has ensured such a lengthy top-flight career.
In recent seasons the former England international has enjoyed something of a renaissance in his preferred central midfield position and was influential in the Reds’ run to last season’s Champions League final.
With Joe Gomez injured and Trent Alexander-Arnold rested it fell to Milner to deliver another steady performance at right-back. He is the ultimate squad player; a manager’s dream.
Klopp underlines strength of Reds’ squad
Much was made of the fact Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mané were all rested for Liverpool’s win at Burnley in midweek – particularly when the Clarets took a shock lead at Turf Moor.
But in resting his much-lauded front three the German spared them a punishing midweek trip ahead of what promises to be a hectic Christmas schedule and rewarded Merseyside derby hero Divock Origi.
In the event, Firmino and Salah were called upon, the former scoring three minutes after his introduction to put the Reds in front, but they played roughly 25 minutes each.
Klopp rang the changes again for the trip to the Vitality Stadium with Origi, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson, Alberto Moreno and the injured Gomez all dropping out. Yet he was still able to call upon Mané and Adam Lallana from the bench with 25 minutes remaining.
With seven games between now and January 7, any rest Klopp can afford his key men will be pivotal if they are to keep pace with Manchester City.
Bitter taste for the Cherries
For the first 25 minutes Bournemouth’s game plan worked. The Reds dominated possession but could not break them down and it took an element of fortune for the visitors to go in front. Replays showed Salah was offside. Even then, had Begović held onto Firmino’s awkward, bouncing, strike they would have kept the game goalless a little longer, at least.
Although Eddie Howe’s side had a little go before the break – David Brooks coming closest with a snap-shot at the near post which Alisson did well to turn away for a corner – they never truly threatened Liverpool.
Their game was largely predicated on getting crosses into the box – demonstrated by their attacking dashboard (above), courtesy of Stats Zone. But the Reds dealt with that threat with ease and took their chances to leave the Cherries squashed.
Robertson raids prove profitable
Andy Robertson’s part in the Reds’ third, fizzing in a low cross which Cook turned past Begović, was a just reward for his attacking contribution throughout.
The Scot completed 20 of 24 passes in the attacking third – only Salah (25/31) managed more – while attempting four crosses from the left. Milner, deployed at right-back, slung in seven but only connected with one.
Defensively he was robust for the Reds, making more tackles (four from four) than anyone else on the field while also recovering possession more often than any other Liverpool player (six times).
Salah’s hat-trick meant it was impossible for anyone else to steal the headlines. But Robertson deserves an honourable mention, at least.