There is no doubt the Reds’ 30-year title drought is coming to an end as a dominant display underlined why they will be fitting champions
AFP and AP, LIVERPOOL, England
Liverpool on Wednesday moved to the brink of celebrating a first league title in 30 years with a 4-0 win over Crystal Palace on their return to an empty Anfield.
Juergen Klopp’s side would be champions should Manchester City have failed to win at Chelsea yesterday or with a point when they face City on Thursday next week.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah, Fabinho and Sadio Mane scored the goals as Liverpool opened up a 23-point lead at the top of the table.
“Imagine if this stadium would have been full today and all the people could have experienced it live,” Klopp said. “I don’t think the game could have been better because my boys played like everybody was in the stadium.”
Before kickoff, You’ll Never Walk Alone boomed around a deserted Anfield, but without the usual accompanying chorus of nearly 55,000 fans.
Instead, banners and flags were draped over the Kop on the night Liverpool could have clinched the title had they won the Merseyside derby on Sunday.
Klopp was able to bring back Salah and Andy Robertson from that 0-0 draw at Everton, and the champions-in-waiting were much more like their old selves as Palace struggled to keep the score respectable.
“There was a lot more rhythm and fluency than Sunday,” rightback Alexander-Arnold said. “Today, we’ve come out, started fast and didn’t really put a foot wrong in the whole game. It will go down as one of our best performances of the season.”
Alexander-Arnold opened the floodgates when he curled a free-kick beyond the grasp of Wayne Hennessey to settle any nerves on 23 minutes.
Salah then showed the clinical touch Liverpool lacked on Sunday to control Fabinho’s excellent ball over the top and slot home his 21st goal of the season just before halftime.
“We tried hard to tell the boys how good the Everton game was apart from the last third,” Klopp said. “Today was a reaction and I liked the game so much, 4-0 up in the 87th minute and four players chasing one Crystal Palace player like it’s the only ball in the world.”
Liverpool’s long wait for a title has been extended by three months due to the unprecedented COVID-19 suspension, but there remains no doubt the title drought is coming to an end and as dominant a display from Klopp’s men as any this season underlined why they will be fitting champions.
“Tonight was a big step, that’s clear,” Klopp said. “We’ve all still got to play seven games, if we play like this it’s really not nice to play against us. I have to watch the game tomorrow [Thursday] because we play them one week later. That’s being professional and doing my job.”
Fabinho set the seal on a 23rd straight league win at Anfield when the Brazilian drilled home from outside the penalty area.
The front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Mane have been key to Liverpool’s rise over the past three years, from struggling just to qualify for the UEFA Champions League to winning that competition last season and now running away with the English Premier League.
All three combined beautifully for the fourth 20 minutes from time when Firmino fed Salah, whose pass picked out the run of Mane and the Senegalese slotted into the far corner.
Elsewhere, Anthony Martial scored his first hat-trick for Manchester United in a 3-0 win over Sheffield United to take his tally in all competitions to 19.
It was the first hat-trick by a United player since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
The win kept United in fifth place, which would be enough to secure qualification for next season’s Champions League if second-placed Manchester City fail in their appeal against a two-year European ban.
Wolverhampton Wanderers kept up the pressure on the Red Devils with a 1-0 victory over AFC Bournemouth thanks to Raul Jimenez’s 60th-minute winner.
Bottom-of-the-table Norwich City are six points from safety after Michael Keane’s header gave Everton a 1-0 victory.
Aston Villa remained in 19th place, but moved level on points with West Ham United in 17th and Bournemouth in 18th, after Ahmed Elmohamady came off the bench to claim a 1-1 draw at Newcastle United with an 83rd-minute header.
Newcastle looked to be heading for a second win in four days when Dwight Gayle put the hosts into a 68th-minute lead with his first goal for the club in more than two years.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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