Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp challenged his side to become more consistent after watching them thrash Bournemouth to move up to fourth in the Premier League table.
Goals from Philippe Coutinho, Dejan Lovren, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino gave the Reds the win and took them above Burnley and Arsenal, although they are still 18 points behind leaders Manchester City.
This result came after Liverpool had only managed draws in their home matches against Everton and West Brom earlier this month.
“It was a very important win as we had two draws in the last two games and both of those games we should have won,” said Klopp.
“We need to be really consistent, on track and show all the time who we are and that we are all together.
“I’m really pleased about pretty much everything because the start was serious like it should be. We really deserved it and I enjoyed the performance.”
Coutinho, who had earlier hit the post with a free-kick, put the visitors ahead with a fine individual goal and Lovren headed in a second six minutes later.
Jermain Defoe hit the post for Bournemouth, but Salah made it 3-0 before half-time after an excellent jinking run.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also hit the woodwork before Firmino headed in from Coutinho’s cross to seal the impressive win for Klopp’s side.
The victory extends Liverpool’s unbeaten run in all competitions to 12 matches, while Bournemouth have not won in six games.
Sensational Liverpool far too good for Bournemouth
Liverpool took only 20 minutes to break down Bournemouth, and it came from a piece of magic from Coutinho as he scored his fifth goal in as many games.
There looked to be little danger when the Brazilian collected the ball 35 yards out, close to the left touchline, but, with the Bournemouth defenders backtracking, Coutinho was allowed to run at the home defence, before he jinked inside a challenge and slotted the ball past Asmir Begovic.
It became two soon afterwards after some sloppy Bournemouth defending.
A corner from the left was flicked on by Georginio Wijnaldum, but the home defence stopped, thinking the ball was going out of play, and Firmino hooked the ball back into the danger zone for the unmarked Lovren to score with a diving header.
In this fixture last season, Bournemouth trailed 2-0 and 3-1 before winning 4-3, but there was no repeat this time around.
Salah got his 11th goal in 11 games, and his 20th of the season, with an excellent individual goal to kill the game off after only 44 minutes.
Firmino got the goal he deserved with a diving header for the fourth, although he had looked to be in an offside position when he met Coutinho’s fine cross.
With the three points wrapped up, Klopp took the opportunity to give some playing time for England midfielder Adam Lallana, who came on for the last 19 minutes for only his second substitute appearance of the season after a thigh injury sustained in the summer.
Bournemouth’s concerns increase
For Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, this was their sixth game without a victory and they remain 16th in the table, only one point above the relegation zone.
Since putting four past Huddersfield on 18 November, the Cherries have only scored four times in six games, and they will be concerned that Joshua King, who netted 17 times in 2016-17, went off injured after only 31 minutes.
Defoe had the best chance for the hosts when he was put through by substitute Junior Stanislas, but, with only goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to beat, the England international fired his shot against the foot of the post.
He also forced a fine second-half save from Mignolet, but the hosts’ struggles in front of goal continue and no Bournemouth player has scored more than three Premier League goals in 2017-18.
It was also another disappointing home performance for a Bournemouth side who have only picked up eight points from their nine matches at the Vitality Stadium this season, with only bottom side Swansea picking up fewer points – seven – from their home games.
Man of the match – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Landmark for Salah – the stats
- Bournemouth are winless in their last six league games (drawn three, lost three).
- Mohamed Salah became the first Liverpool player to score 20 goals before Christmas since Ian Rush in 1986-87.
- No side has scored more first-half Premier League goals this season than Liverpool’s 19, although Manchester City have also scored 19 in the first half.
- Bournemouth’s 4-3 win in this fixture 12 months ago is their only triumph in 12 league and cup games against Liverpool (drawn three, lost eight).
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last nine games in the Premier League (won six, drawn three) – their best run since an 11-match streak ended in November 2016.
- Jurgen Klopp has made 69 changes to Liverpool’s starting line-up in this season’s Premier League. Last season he only made a total of 54 changes to his starting side in the league all season.
‘We left ourselves exposed’ – what they said
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe: “We have to look at ourselves before we look at the opposition. We were flat, we never got going and we can’t turn the ball over like we did because it is very difficult to defend when the numbers are against us.
“We are aware our style can leave us vulnerable and we left ourselves exposed at times. We didn’t get our game going and when you don’t perform against the top teams, you’re going to get punished so it was very disappointing for us.”
On Bournemouth being in a relegation fight, Howe added: “It’s going to be a tough challenge but I back us to come back strong from this. We’re in the same position as always with a relegation fight, first year, second year, so we’ve been here before. We know we have to come through a tough Christmas schedule and come back stronger next year.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “I am really pleased about everything, the start was serious, we knew how they can play if you let them. We were disciplined, I like how we defended different situations, and our tactical discipline was good. You can’t score all the time, all the games are hard. It was a fantastic first goal, and the third was world class.
“We could have scored more, but we didn’t really give a lot away so it was well deserved and I enjoyed the performances.”
Asked whether it was hard leaving players out, Klopp replied: “It’s not hard, I am not here to celebrate my squad. I like them but against West Brom they didn’t hit the target.
“I don’t change my mind in three minutes, but we have to be consistently good because we are Liverpool. I am completely happy having these boys around, Adam Lallana came on and made a difference immediately, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain creates pressure. But still, I can only line 11 up.”
After playing Manchester United and now Liverpool, Bournemouth’s tough run of fixtures continues with a Carabao Cup quarter-final tie at Chelsea on Wednesday, 20 December (19:45 GMT), before an away Premier League game at leaders Manchester City on Saturday, 23 December (15:00 GMT).
Liverpool’s next two games both come in the Premier League. Firstly they play away at Arsenal on Friday, 22 December (19:45 GMT) before a home game against Swansea City on Boxing Day (17:30 GMT).