Begovic 5; Francis 5, Cook 4, Ake 5, Daniels 5 (Rico 82nd); Brooks 6 (Mousset
(64th) 5), Lerma 6, Surman 5, Stanislas 5 (Mings
82nd); King 5, Fraser 6
AS Steve Cook found out, not even the darkest defensive arts can stop magic man Mo Salah when he is in this form.
Bournemouth were already trailing to a Salah strike, which should have been ruled out for offside, when the Egyptian ace got in behind the home defence soon after half-time.
Cook resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the book, raking his studs down the Liverpool man’s Achilles tendon.
It was the sort of challenge that would have seen plenty of others go down looking for a foul and screaming in pain.
But not Salah. He stayed on his feet, steadied himself and slotted a fine finish past Asmir Begovic.
Salah did not bother with a celebration and instead chose to give Cook the death stare.
Not that the defender was looking. His head was bowed as he came to terms with the fact he’d been done by one of the best players in our game.
Cook had a torrid time trying to keep the
Reds forward at bay.
His misery was compounded when he turned home Andy Robertson’s cross into his own net to make it 3-0.
It was some finish from the defender – a Gianfranco Zola-esque back-heel which left Begovic with no chance.
Cook was not finished there, though, and lunged at Adam Lallana’s through-ball which pushed it into Salah’s path.
The Kop ace put Begovic on his backside twice before completing his hat-trick with a nonchalant flick.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe (above) said: “Salah was very good, razor-sharp. We did struggle to handle him – he’s one of the best in the world.”
What’s more, Salah did not even look as if he was trying.
Cook wasn’t the only Cherries player off colour and even if Callum Wilson – ruled out with a hamstring injury – had been available there is little chance the outcome would have been different.
This victory made it 17 games unbeaten for Liverpool and was a great way for James Milner, who was handed the captain’s armband, to celebrate his 500th Premier League game.
The two-time title winner has played with some wonderful talents in a fine career and it is unlikely he will rate too many higher than Salah.
Bournemouth looked jittery early on and several times Liverpool’s high pressing forced turnovers.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were occasionally guilty of gifting their hosts possession but as soon as they went ahead there was only ever one side in it.
Roberto Firmino exchanged passes with Salah and then unleashed a 25-yard shot which Begovic could only parry.
Salah was quickest to react as he fired past the keeper.
Howe was understandably frustrated after replays showed Salah was just offside when Firmino struck his effort.
He said: “The first goal had a massive bearing on the game because at that moment we were okay, our shape was good.
“Liverpool hadn’t opened us up at that point and the goal should not have stood.
“We got ourselves back into the game and I thought it was well set up for us. Then we started to make some individual mistakes that really hurt us.” Salah walked away with the match ball but not the man of the match award after insisting Milner deserved it more for his impressive number of top-flight games.
The Leeds-born midfielder – who played at right-back for the Reds after the midweek injury to Joe Gomez – has also starred for his hometown club as well as Newcastle, Aston Villa and Manchester City.
Salah said: “I just have to congratulate Milner for his amazing career.
“I hope I have more games like this in my career but I will not take the award.
“I scored three goals, we went to the top of the table and kept a clean sheet.
“It was a fantastic result and I enjoyed the last goal the most. I was calm.
“I know everyone has high expectations for me but the most important thing is to win each game and keep this run of form going.”
Liverpool manager Klopp was delighted with the result and was full of praise for his Egypt ace who has been criticised for not yet reaching the heights of last season.
Klopp said: “Whatever you do in a football game you need somebody to finish it off and what Mo did around his two goals in the second half was just exceptional.
“I don’t know at the moment a lot of players who would have scored these two goals.
“The first one is a foul but he wants to score goals and stands on his feet and scores it.
“His third goal is outstanding again. How he set it up, that was good.”
Alisson 6; Milner 7, Matip 6, Van Dijk
7, Robertson 7; Shaqiri 7 (Mane (64th) 6), Wijnaldum
7, Fabinho 7, Keita 7 (Lallana (64th) 6); Salah 9, Firmino 7 (Henderson 80th) Mo Salah L Mason Wolves (A), Dec 15 Napoli (H), Dec 11
BOURNEMOUTH: LIVERPOOL: STAR MAN:REF: Bournemouth’s next game: Liverpool’s next game: ■BOURNE TO SCORE: Salah sticks away his second goal of the day ■THREE & EASY: Mo flicks the ball past Ake for his third strike