Liverpool moved 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a comfortable win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, one of seven changes for the Reds, opened the scoring after a brilliant long-range pass from Jordan Henderson.
Naby Keita made it 2-0 before the break, slotting in with the outside of his foot after Mohamed Salah set him up with a sublime backheel.
Keita then turned provider for Salah as Liverpool eased to victory.
It extends Liverpool’s club record unbeaten run to 33 league games and they have won 15 of 16 Premier League matches this season.
The Cherries have now lost five consecutive matches and were dealt more bad news when Nathan Ake and Callum Wilson were both forced off with injuries either side of half-time.
Leicester City, Liverpool’s nearest rivals at the top of the league table, do not play until 14:00 GMT on Sunday, when they travel to Aston Villa. Defending champions Manchester City host neighbours Manchester United later on Saturday (17:30).
Reds cruise to another win
There is an air of invincibility about Liverpool this season, as they continue to chase their first league title for 30 years.
Saturday’s victory at the Vitality was so routine – though the early loss of Ake to injury weakened an already struggling Bournemouth back four.
But the Reds played with a swagger and a dominance which would have surely pleased manager Jurgen Klopp greatly.
They picked up their first clean sheet in 14 games and found new Premier League goalscorers in Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita – the 15th and 16th players to score in the competition for Liverpool this season.
Going into the match, Klopp said “being top at Christmas is not important”, but with a crucial Champions League game against Red Bull Salzburg coming up on Tuesday, the fact Liverpool have such a commanding lead over their domestic rivals at this stage means he has been able to rotate players to keep them fresh.
Sadio Mane, the orchestrator of Liverpool’s 5-2 Merseyside derby victory over Everton on Wednesday, was an unused substitute alongside centre-forward Divock Origi, while 18-year-old Curtis Jones came on for his Premier League debut.
All in all, it was a successful afternoon for Liverpool, who just keep getting the job done.
Injuries piling up for Bournemouth
Eddie Howe’s side were taught a lesson by the league leaders, but any hopes of an upset had been wiped away early on when centre-back Ake pulled up clutching his hamstring after making a superb last-ditch tackle on Salah.
The Dutchman was replaced by Jack Simpson, but his disappointment was clear as he trudged off the pitch and he was comforted by Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, a Netherlands team-mate.
Bournemouth were already without eight first-team players because of injury going into Saturday’s game, including another regular centre-back Steve Cook.
Liverpool drew blood almost immediately after Ake’s afternoon had ended prematurely – Oxlade-Chamberlain coolly slotting Henderson’s fine long-range pass into the near corner.
Nine minutes later, Salah’s backheel to set up Keita was far too good for the three defenders gathered around him on the edge of the box, and the Egyptian’s goal – Liverpool’s third – came 10 minutes before Bournemouth striker Wilson then had to be replaced.
It depends on the extent of their injuries, but Ake and Wilson could miss the Cherries’ trip to fourth-placed Chelsea next Saturday – which is already going to be a tough task for Howe’s team.
They are in 15th place, one point above the relegation zone, and have potentially crucial fixtures against Burnley and Brighton coming up this month too, with one against Arsenal sandwiched in between.
Man of the match – Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
‘All round nearly perfect day’
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, speaking to Match of the Day: “I don’t like to use injuries as an excuse, but there comes a time when you have to look at the situation and the teams we are playing. We lost another two players today. It is what it is.
“The squad is stretched. It is there to cope with the injuries but the difficulty for us is we are getting injuries but not getting players back.
“The mentality of the group is strong but damaged in confidence. We can always do better. We can always question ourselves and say we could have done better today, but the quality of the opposition was very strong.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, speaking to Match of the Day: “It was a professional performance – controlled, scoring wonderful goals. We didn’t want to make it exciting again, so we wanted to control Bournemouth.
“The most used word in the dressing room at the moment is ‘clean sheet ‘…finally! [The injury to defender] Dejan Lovren was hopefully cramp but apart from that it was a perfect game. All round, nearly perfect day.”
Salah has 63 in 100 – the best of the stats
- Liverpool have won 24 of their past 25 Premier League matches and have scored two or more goals in 23 of those.
- Bournemouth have become the first side to lose five consecutive top-flight meetings with Liverpool by a margin of three or more goals. They have lost those five games by a combined score of 17-0.
- The Reds did not allow Bournemouth a shot on target on Saturday, which is only the second time they have done so in a league match since the start of last season (also against Brighton in January).
- The Cherries have lost five straight matches for the first time in the top flight. They last lost as many league matches in a row in March 2013 when in League One.
- Salah scored his 63rd goal in his 100th Premier League appearance – only Alan Shearer (79), Ruud van Nistelrooy (68) and Sergio Aguero (64) scored more in their first 100 games in the competition.
- Salah has scored more Premier League goals against Bournemouth (seven) than any other opponent, and has netted in all five of his appearances against the Cherries in the competition.
- Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his first goal in 25 Premier League appearances for Liverpool. He last netted in the competition against Manchester City in January 2018, one year and 327 days ago.
Bournemouth travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in the Premier League on 14 December (15:00 GMT).
Liverpool travel to Austria to play Red Bull Salzburg in their final Champions League group game on Tuesday (17:55), before hosting Watford in the league on 14 December (12:30).