Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah romps to a hat-trick in 4-0 win at Bournemouth
Stuart James at the Vitality Stadium
Sat 8 Dec 2018 14.42 GMT
The general consensus seems to be that Mohamed Salah has not been quite the same player this season. On this evidence there is nothing to worry about after the striker produced a wonderful individual display that finished with him walking off the pitch with the matchball under his arm.
A brilliant hat-trick was completed in style – Asmir Begovic, the Bournemouth goalkeeper, ended up on his backside, Steve Cook was trailing in Salah’s wake for the umpteenth time and Nathan Aké stood helpless on the line – as Salah flicked the ball into the net with the outside of his left boot.
By that stage the game had already turned into an exercise in damage limitation for Bournemouth, who were entitled to feel aggrieved that Salah’s first goal had been allowed to stand – he strayed into an offside position just before – but could have no complaints about the final outcome after contributing to their own downfall with some desperately poor defending.
Salah, in this mood, was not going to pass up the opportunity to punish them. Deployed in a more central role alongside Roberto Firmino, Salah tormented Bournemouth, in particular Cook, who endured a miserable afternoon. As well as scoring a farcical own goal, the central defender was responsible for Salah’s second and nudged the ball into the Liverpool’s striker’s path for his third. Even a cynical and crude attempt from Cook to bring Salah down, in the lead-up to the second goal, failed. “We struggled to handle him,” Eddie Howe said. “He’s one of the best in the world in my opinion.”
Jürgen Klopp agreed when the Bournemouth manager’s comments were put to him. “Whatever you do in a game, you need somebody to finish it off,” Liverpool’s manager said. “What Mo did around his two goals in the second half was just exceptional. I don’t know a lot of players who would have scored those two goals. The first one is a foul [on him] but he wants to score the goal so stays on his feet. His third goal is outstanding again.”
From Liverpool’s point of view this was the best possible preparation for Tuesday’s critical Champions League tie against Napoli at Anfield. They racked up a fifth successive Premier League victory, came through the game without picking up any fresh injuries, replaced Manchester City at the top of the table, and their talisman turned in his best performance of the campaign. “The scoresheet was perfect,” Klopp added.
Two years ago Liverpool came here and led 2-0 only to be beaten 4-3 in a chaotic game, yet history never looked like repeating itself after Salah scored his second. Howe admitted that goal “seemed to knock the stuffing out of us” and he also acknowledged that this Liverpool side are a totally different proposition.
Cook’s difficult day started with that second goal. He gifted possession to Firmino with a loose pass and was fortunate not to be booked for crudely trying to bring down Salah seconds later. Salah just about managed to stay on his feet before accepting the invitation to shoot across Begovic as Aké kept backing off.
Howe was disappointed with the opening goal for different reasons. Begovic spilt Firmino’s 25-yard shot and Salah, on to the loose ball in a flash, was clearly offside. The assistant referee kept his flag down, however, and Bournemouth found themselves chasing the game. “I thought the first goal had a massive bearing on the game,” Howe said. “Up until that moment I thought we were OK.”
The absence of Callum Wilson, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury, clearly hurt Bournemouth, yet they were also their own worst enemies at the back. The sight of Cook turning Andrew Robertson’s cross into his own net was a case in point and the defender’s ordeal did not end there. Desperately trying to keep up with Salah, Cook tried to make a sliding invention but succeeded only in knocking the ball into the path of the forward. What followed was a joy to watch as Salah, almost single-handedly taking on the Bournemouth defence, applied the coup de grâce with his third and Liverpool’s fourth.
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