Liverpool 6 Leeds United 0
Liverpool blew away Leeds to such an extent at Anfield that Pep Guardiola may have been able to feel their breath on the back of his neck in Manchester. City’s comfortable 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League is a distant memory and Jürgen Klopp’s “pain in the ass” are closing in.
Klopp celebrated an emphatic rout of Leeds with six punches in front of the Kop: one for each goal that his rampant team swept past the ridiculously exposed Illan Meslier. Mohamed Salah scored two penalties, Sadio Mané struck twice, Joël Matip converted a fine goal and Virgil van Dijk joined his defensive partner on the scoresheet in stoppage time. Liverpool sent out a statement of intent with their game in hand on the Premier League leaders.
Liverpool's hunger was evident from the start as Fabinho and the recalled Curtis Jones snapped into tackles while Luis Díaz swept down the left. So too was Leeds' defensive vulnerability, although that was also unsurprising given an injury list that forced Marcelo Bielsa to deploy Luke Ayling as a makeshift centre half and switch Stuart Dallas to right back. Salah, Díaz and Mané revelled in the spaces that opened up in the visitors' uncertain backline.
Only four minutes had elapsed when Mané released the Colombia international in space and, with the ball seemingly glued to his right foot, he waltzed inside two white shirts before curling for the far corner. Díaz’s goalbound drive struck Mané on the back and deflected harmlessly wide, but Leeds would not be reprieved for long.
On the front foot, and brave as always in possession, Bielsa's side initially caused Liverpool problems. They were simply unable to retain the ball long enough to threaten seriously. Daniel James dispossessed Alisson inside the Liverpool penalty area but, having fallen in the challenge, he was unable to convert into an empty net before Matip cleared to spare his goalkeeper's blushes. James again lost his footing when played in behind the Liverpool defence by Mateusz Klich. By that stage, however, Leeds were chasing the game.
Liverpool were awarded their first penalty when Jones's quick free-kick to Fabinho caught the visitors asleep. Andy Robertson received possession on the left and drilled in a first-time cross that struck Dallas's outstretched right arm. Referee Michael Oliver had no hesitation in awarding a spot-kick and Salah sent Meslier the wrong way to score his 18th league goal of the season.
Leeds thought they had levelled from a superb team move that flowed from back to front through Dallas, Klich, James and Rodrigo before Jack Harrison centred for Raphinha to convert at the back post. Their celebrations were curtailed by a correct offside call against Raphinha and, moments later, Leeds' night deteriorated further. Matip strolled out from the back, as he was invited to do all night, before finding Salah and darting into the area. Salah returned an exquisite pass between the legs of Junior Firpo for Matip to clip in a fine first goal of the season.
Liverpool needed no assistance to confirm their superiority but were awarded a second penalty when Ayling was adjudged to have clipped Mané as he raced through on goal. The Leeds’ captain had a reasonable case that Mané caught him while cutting in front, but, once VAR confirmed contact had been made in the area, Oliver’s initial decision was upheld.
Salah went the same way with his penalty and Meslier went the right way on this occasion, but did not get near the Egypt international’s effort as it flew over him. It was the 53rd goal Leeds had conceded in the Premier League this season. In the entirety of last season they conceded 54.
Leeds were in danger of unravelling as the interval approached. Heads dropped, simple passes went astray and their defensive structure vanished. Fabinho should have made it four but side-footed wide when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick landed at his feet in front of goal. Salah almost claimed his hat-trick when played through by Alexander-Arnold’s brilliant instinctive pass but his chip over Meslier was hooked off the line by Firpo.
Salah was naturally desperate for his hat-trick and angered whenever the chance passed him by. One attempt, curled to the far corner having cut inside Firpo, was saved by Meslier. Another was swept high into the Kop following unselfish work from Jones who, with only the goalkeeper to beat, squared for his insatiable team-mate. Jones departed to a deserved standing ovation as James Milner was introduced against his boyhood club for the 801st appearance of his outstanding career.
Liverpool added a fourth in style. Salah found Jordan Henderson with an exquisite return ball to the substitute, who crossed first-time for Mané to sweep an unstoppable finish into the roof of Meslier's net.
Another flowing move brought the fifth. Henderson and Milner combined to release Divock Origi on the left and, despite Meslier’s best efforts to save at the substitute’s feet, the ball broke for Mané to tap his second into an empty net. There was still time for Van Dijk to add a sixth with a free header from Robertson’s corner. – Guardian