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Liverpool in seventh heaven as Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah doubles see Reds top table at Christmas

Crystal Palace 0-7 Liverpool: Defending champions send out a statement of intent with demolition job at Selhurst Park to take six-point lead over their rivals and guarantee top spot on Christmas Day

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Correspondent
Saturday 19 December 2020 14:58 GMT
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Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring his second in Liverpool’s 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace
Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring his second in Liverpool’s 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace (EPA)

As much as a performance of champions, it was different individual displays of Liverpool’s exacting quality, and a goal of the month competition all in one match. This 7-0 win over Crystal Palace was a victory as special and as era-defining as anything we’ve seen in Jurgen Klopp’s half-decade in charge. And that in a season when they have been someway off their highest level. It was that good, that ominous for everyone else. It was also a record, as their biggest ever away win in the league.

They raised it when required to rise above the whole league - and a generally lower-quality season. That may be the case in this title race as a whole.

On that, this does have the potential to be a juncture week, and you could sense how transformational the victory over Tottenham Hotspur might have been. You could see its significance in the reaction, and the response at Selhurst Park.

There is also something instructive there, given Spurs’ own performance at this stadium only six days ago.

READ MORE: Premier League table and fixtures in full

Jose Mourinho’s side had the lead and the chance to go top before such a crucial game, but sat back and squandered it, before suffering from a similar approach at Anfield. Liverpool won that, moved up, and stepped up to something so dazzlingly resounding here. They suddenly look in full command on top, and close to their top level.

This season of course has a habit of making fools of people, and rendering predictions ridiculous, so it could all change again so quickly in a matter of weeks.

It’s just Liverpool have a habit of making fools of people too, not least with the speed with which they can change a game.

Minamino got the ball rolling. inthe third minute (Reuters)

That was repeatedly illustrated throughout this game, and right from the off.

Any concerns about Jurgen Klopp resting Mohamed Salah - who was, at least before this, Liverpool’s one main forward on form - were dispelled within a mere three minutes.

Takumi Minamino stepped up by shifting his body intelligently, before slotting in a fine goal set up by Sadio Mane. That was a sign of improvement from his provider, too.

Before that, though, Palace actually had a spell when they looked like they could get something from the game, when they were exposing - yes - flaws in this Liverpool side.

Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew will rue one move where the latter had the chance to play in the easiest of passes, but squandered it.

Mane set up Minamino before scoring the second himself (AFP via Getty)

It’s just hard to know whether that would have given them a chance, or just lessened the scale of the eventual humiliation.

Liverpool made sure they wouldn’t get another chance, punishing them in brutal fashion. Mane’s powerful finish fully reflected that feeling.

That was a first goal for the Senagelese in 10 games, and as sure a sign as any that they were coming back to form.

Another sign was the sublime quality of the third goal. This was something straight out of the 2018/19 or 2019/20 seasons, as Andy Robertson and Roberto Firmino exchanged the most expansive of one-twos, before the Brazilian finished divinely. After a mere two goals in 19 games this season before Wednesday, this was three in two, as he went on to make it 5-0 with a sumptuous chip.

By the time Henderson scored the fourth Liverpool were in full flight (AFP via Getty)

That was in the middle of what was their own goal-of-the-month competition, as Jordan Henderson curled in the fourth with a gorgeous curling effort, before Salah - eventually coming on as a substitute for the infuriated Mane - did the same from the other side.

The Egyptian had prodded in a more mundane sixth goal before that, but that was another ominous sign of its own. There was a hunger to Liverpool, a ravenousness, as they all wanted to get in on it; all saw the opportunity to score goals.

You only had to look at Mane’s reaction to coming off, and Curtis Jones so wanting to get on.

They sensed there was more. There may well be more to come.

Salah came off the bench to add a late double (AFP via Getty)

It is all the more impressive Liverpool produced this given the players they are still missing, and who they have to come back. A midfielder as good as Thiago Alcantara still has to slot into this.

The afternoon ended with Henderson - potentially BBC Sports Personality of the Year - wondering which goal was the best.

But there is no question which team is the best, or what their best performance of the season so far was.

This will take some beating.

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