By James Pearce
16:23, 8 DEC 2018
There was a genius at work on the south coast.
Mohamed Salah walked away with the matchball tucked under his arm and applause from both sets of supporters ringing in his ears.
'Liverpool top of the league,' crowed the ecstatic travelling Kop. They were put there courtesy of a stunning masterclass from their Egyptian King.
The greatest start to a season in the Reds' illustrious history just hit new heights. Having battled and scrapped for precious wins over Everton and Burnley, they enjoyed a very different kind of triumph at the Vitality Stadium.
This was Liverpool's most complete performance of the season so far.
This was a booming statement of intent in the Premier League title race.
The message sent to Manchester City was loud and clear: Liverpool are going nowhere.
Jurgen Klopp's side didn't just beat Bournemouth, they absolutely demolished them. The balance of the side was perfect. Defensively rock solid, creative and controlling in midfield and potent up top.
Here was real quality mixed with a steely work ethic. There was perspiration and inspiration in equal measure.
This was the best possible way to warm up for Tuesday night's titanic Champions League group decider with Napoli at Anfield. Belief is sky-high.
Hat-trick hero Salah was a joy to watch. The Cherries were tormented by his pace, grace, intelligence, serenity and lethal finishing touch.
His show of class extended beyond the final whistle when he refused to accept the man of the match award and gave it to James Milner instead to mark the vice-captain's 500 Premier League appearance.
It took Salah time to get up to speed this season after a torrid few months with the agony of the shoulder injury he suffered in the Champions League final and then the stresses and strains of the World Cup.
But now the shackles have well and truly come off. Steve Cook, whose own goal added to Liverpool's account, will be seeing Salah in his nightmares.
There was good fortune attached to his opener as he looked marginally offside, but the two that followed were simply sublime as he took his tally for the campaign to 12 goals.
Having swept the board in terms of individual accolades last season, Salah wants team glory this time around and Liverpool look increasingly capable of delivering it.
This gruelling schedule is a balancing act for Klopp but so far he has played a blinder. Rotation has paid off with fringe players grasping their opportunities to shine. Liverpool have rattled off five straight league wins.
Joel Matip shone alongside the imperious Virgil van Dijk as the unbeaten Reds kept a 10th clean sheet in 16 league matches. No top-flight side has ever conceded fewer at this stage of a season than Liverpool's current total of six.
Milner underlined his versatility with a fine shift at right-back and Andy Robertson was equally impressive on the other flank.
Dynamism in midfield had previously been an area of concern but no longer. At a pivotal stage of the season summer signings Naby Keita and Fabinho have stepped up and joined the party.
The £95million double act started a Premier League game together for the first time and both could be proud of their afternoon's work.
If Klopp took a major gamble with the team he fielded at Burnley in midweek, there were few complaints about his line up at the Vitality Stadium.
Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Robertson, Wijnaldum and Salah all returned in place of the injured Joe Gomez, Alberto Moreno, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi.
Fresh legs were key as Liverpool flew out of the traps and dominated the opening 45 minutes. Bournemouth struggled to handle the pace and intelligent movement of the visitors' frontline.
Salah and Xherdan Shaqiri pulled the strings and they proved particularly elusive as they kept on interchanging.
With Fabinho snapping into tackles and Liverpool full of energy as they pressed to repeatedly win back possession, Klopp's side remained firmly in control.
Keita showcased his box of tricks with a double nutmeg to leave Simon Francis and Jefferson Lerma perplexed.
Bournemouth had their moments with Josh King dragging wide before Alisson Becker parried behind David Brooks' strike from a tight angle.
However, Liverpool were good value for the lead they secured in fortuitous circumstances midway through the first half.
Firmino exchanged passes with Salah and the Brazilian frontman unleashed a 25-yarder. It should have been dealt with but Asmir Begovic pushed it straight back out and Salah rifled home the rebound. Replays showed he was marginally offside.
As the rain lashed down, Liverpool dealt expertly with a succession of set-pieces slung into the box. Alisson was a commanding presence – the highlight being the No 1's soaring header to deny King and clear the danger on the edge of the box after a sliced clearance from Milner.
The second half was the Salah show. Three minutes after the restart it was 2-0.
Firmino pounced on Cook's error and released the Reds' top scorer. Cook tried to chop him down by cynically raking his studs down Salah's Achilles.
Salah stumbled but stayed on his feet and punished him in the best possible way by drilling a left footer into the bottom corner. His celebrations remain low key but it's a sign of his humility rather than any cause for concern.
There was no let-up for the Cherries as Sadio Mane made a welcome return from injury. Adam Lallana was also introduced as Shaqiri and Keita made way.
The Reds' third goal had some comedy attached to it as Cook got himself in a muddle and inadvertently turned Robertson's dangerous cross into his own net.
The rout was complete 13 minutes from time as Salah and Liverpool saved the best until last.
Salah scampered after Lallana's inviting ball over the top and forced another mistake from Cook.
What followed was composure on a ridiculous scale. Having gone around Begovic, Salah opted not to shoot as he was going away from goal.
Instead he cut back and beat the keeper for a second time. There were two defenders on the line but Salah took his time and nonchalantly flicked it past them with the outside of his left boot.
In doing so he became the first Liverpool player to score an away hat-trick in the Premier League since Luis Suarez against Cardiff in 2014.
Since the start of last season, only Lionel Messi has scored more league goals in the big five European leagues than Salah.
'Poetry in motion' chanted the away end. Liverpool's thrilling charge continues.
Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis, Cook, Ake, Daniels (Rico 83), Surman, Lerma, Stanislas (Mings 83), Brooks (Mousset 65), Fraser, King.
Not used: Boruc, Pugh, Ibe, Defoe.
Liverpool: Alisson, Milner, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Firmino (Henderson 81), Shaqiri (Mane 65), Keita (Lallana 65), Salah.
Not used: Mignolet, Sturridge, Origi, Alexander-Arnold.
Referee: Lee Mason
Goals: Salah 25, Salah 48, Cook OG 68, Salah 77.
Bookings: Ake, Lerma, Fabinho.
Man of the match: Mohamed Salah. Operating on a different level.
Copyright - The Liverpool Echo
Liverpool player ratings - Mohamed Salah perfect but not the only impressive performer for dominant Reds
Connor Dunn runs the rule over Liverpool's performance after the Reds impress with a 4-0 victory over Bournemouth
Made a good save from David Brooks in the first when Bournemouth started to threaten through Josh King and Junior Stanislas. Excellent work to come out and win a header after a misplaced James Milner clearance looped high across the area and kept well in the second when called upon, saving and holding a well-struck Stanislas free-kick.
James Milner 7
Didn’t look out of place at right-back and showed some good physicality to let Bournemouth know they were in for a battle. As mentioned under Alisson put the goalkeeper under some pressure with a poor clearance but was a strong outlet for Liverpool down the right and never gave up trying to win the ball back.
Joel Matip 7
Looked assured next to Virgil van Dijk and looked calm when letting one run through to Alisson to read the game when there seemed to be danger in the first half. Good athleticism in the second period with some well-timed blocks and pushed Liverpool further up the pitch too.
Virgil van Dijk 7
Dominant in the air and composed on the ball. It’s what we expect isn’t it? Never really let the threat come too near Alisson’s goal about from missing one at the back post which gave Bournemouth half a chance after a well-worked corner.
Andy Robertson 8
Made some excellent bursting runs down the left and almost set Mo Salah up for Liverpool’s first with a wonderful first-time volley cross that Asmir Begovic in the just got a hand to. Got an assist for Liverpool’s third after pinging in a delivery that Steve Cook turned into his own net with a worldy finish. Defended well when called upon too and was calm to put the ball into safety when the Cherries had moments of threatening play.
Georginio Wijnaldum 7
Moved the ball on well and didn’t let Bournemouth get past him. Made himself an outlet for when the defence were under pressure and was solid throughout.
Looked calm in the midfield and showed some lovely touches to move the ball forward. Constantly wanted to get Liverpool moving but also did very well defensively when called upon.
Naby Keita 7
Showed great feet early on to get Liverpool on the front foot. Linked up well with the other frontmen and showed flashes of the quality we saw at Bournemouth. Substituted twenty minutes into the second-half.
Xherdan Shaqiri 8
Saw a lot of the ball in the first-half and rightly so, he caused Bournemouth’s defence all manner of problems with his movement and was unlucky with a free-kick that just hit the top of the wall. Was brought off after twenty minutes in the second period.
Roberto Firmino 8
His sweetly struck half-volley which Begovic could only parry into the path of Salah saw Liverpool score their first goal. Linked up very well with the other prongs of the Reds attack and played the Egyptian in for his second. Constantly interchanging position with the other frontmen and great interplay before being brought off with nine minutes remaining.
Mohamed Salah 10
It’s the perfect 10. Hat-trick hero. Whatever you want to call it. Bournemouth quite simply could not cope with his pace and movement. He scored one in the first-half after that fierce volley from Firmino. He got his second after the break when the Brazilian won the ball back and played him in, doing incredibly well to stay on his feet when fouled and coolly slotting past Begovic. Then scored a sensational third chopping Begovic twice before nonchalantly using the outside of his left foot to put the ball past Nathan Ake on the line. Created plenty for the Reds too.
Sadio Mane (Shaqiri 65’) 7
Was closing in to score after Robertson’s whipped cross saw Cook turn the ball in. His pace, predictably caused Bournemouth some problems and as ever looked to get the Reds on the front foot.
Adam Lallana (Keita 65’) 7
Showed some proper energy and desire to win the ball back for Liverpool. Played the ball up to Salah for the Egyptian’s third and Liverpool’s fourth goal. Bloodied himself for the cause.
Henderson (Firmino 81’)