Unbeaten Liverpool’s march towards a first title in 30 years is gathering yet more pace as a 4-0 victory over Southampton sent them 22 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
With nearest-rivals Manchester City playing at Tottenham on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s side turned the screw even further with second-half goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, against his former club, Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah (two).
Seven more wins will guarantee their first domestic championship since 1990 after a 24th victory in 25 matches and ninth clean sheet in 10 games was secured after wearing down doughty and difficult opponents.
Salah, Georginio Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Trent Alexander-Arnold all had shots blocked or saved but the biggest chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to Virgil Van Dijk whose first touch to kill Alexander-Arnold’s cross was casual but his backheeled shot was far too laid-back.
Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy blocked and saved the follow-up from Roberto Firmino, although the Brazil international felt he should have had a penalty in the next phase of the attack when Shane Long appeared to pull him down almost on the goalline.
Referee Kevin Friend waved play on and VAR official Simon Hooper concurred.
It was easy to see, however, why two-thirds of Saints’ points this season have come away from home as they pressed high and worked tirelessly to nullify Liverpool’s threat, both short and long, while waiting to pounce on any mistake.
They were presented with plenty of those in the first half with Joe Gomez particularly slow in responding to threats and Firmino playing a 30-yard back-pass to Ings in the penalty area whose shot was blocked by the leg of team-mate Shane Long.
Since their 9-0 home defeat to Leicester on October 25 only the Foxes, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United have won more points than Hassenhuttl’s side (23 points from 14 matches) and the fact they out-shot their hosts 10 to eight in the first half was an indicator of that form.
But they were left to rue a number of opportunities in which they failed to properly test Alisson Becker and teams visiting Anfield rarely get a second bite of the cherry.
The turning point came early into the second half. Ings thought he should have had a penalty after stumbling through a challenge by Fabinho, making his first Premier League start after injury since November 23.
The visitors’ error was not to react quickly enough as Liverpool, as many teams have discovered to their considerable cost over the last couple of seasons, are at their most dangerous when opponents are on the offensive.
A counter-attack down the left eventually saw Andy Robertson pull the ball back to Oxlade-Chamberlain who cut inside and drilled home a right-footed shot which had McCarthy rooted to the spot.
An energised Liverpool stepped things up and Salah had the ball in the net only to be denied by an offside flag, although Ings continued to create problems until his substitution to a warm round of applause in the 70th minute.
By that time the visitors were 2-0 down after Henderson calmly slotted the ball home on the hour mark.
Salah was not to be denied though and when Alisson picked out Henderson on the right wing he slid in a pass for his team-mate to dink over McCarthy, with the Egypt international adding his second in a goalmouth scramble.
The win brought up 100 points from the last 102 available and with Liverpool unbeaten in the league in 394 days – and just less then three months short of three years at home in the competition – no wonder all four sides of Anfield were belting out ‘We’re going to win the league’ at the end.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.