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Friday 20 September 2019

Pool keep up the top pace

Liverpool 5-0 Huddersfield

Naby Keita celebrates after scoring the first goal against Huddersfield at Anfield
Naby Keita celebrates after scoring the first goal against Huddersfield at Anfield

Liverpool's title destiny may still be out of their hands but they refuse to submit, with the demolition of Huddersfield a reminder they are ready to pounce should Manchester City slip up.

The gap between top - the place occupied by Jurgen Klopp's side after this victory - and bottom could not have been more glaring as the visitors were outclassed at Anfield.

City, now two points behind with a game in hand, face a tricky trip to Burnley knowing they cannot afford a mistake at this late stage of the campaign,

The relegated Terriers did themselves no favours after allowing Naby Keita to score after just 16 seconds, Liverpool's quickest Premier League goal and their 100th in all competitions this season.

With principal owner John W Henry making a rare Anfield appearance, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah both scored twice.

Liverpool now have the Premier League's top two scorers this season (Salah 21, Mane 20) and with the team on course to reach 97 points it shows just how impressive City have had to be - and will still have to be - to deny the Reds their first title since 1990.

Left-back Andy Robertson said: "We don't expect anything but all we can do is keep winning games and putting pressure on City. If they win their games, they'll win the league, but if they slip up we have to keep the pressure on.

"We're onto 91 points and normally that's enough to win the league, I think it's going to take 97 or 98 and that's incredible. We've fought the whole way, but whoever falls short will be gutted. But it's something we can be proud of and I'm not sure we could have done any more."

The pressure had been on Liverpool to deliver, but they were able to relax inside half a minute. Jon Gorenc Stankovic was caught in possession by Keita, who took the return pass from Salah to sweep home the second fastest goal in the club's history, narrowly missing Paul Walsh's 14-second record against West Ham in 1984.

Virgil van Dijk then strode out of defence to tee up a Robertson cross which was met by Mane's downward header. Robertson became the first Liverpool defender to provide 10 assists in a Premier League season and only the third in the competition's history after Leighton Baines and Andy Hinchcliffe.

Opposite full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is only one behind, after he clipped the ball forward and Salah lobbed the advancing Jonas Lossl to score his 68th goal on his 100th appearance for the club.

Salah, with 25 goals this season, was not even on the PFA shortlist but became only the third Liverpool player to score 20-plus Premier League goals in successive seasons after Robbie Fowler and Luis Suarez.

In the second half Mane lobbed over and Daniel Sturridge, making his first league start at Anfield since November 2017 after Roberto Firmino was left out with a minor muscle injury, had a goal ruled out for offside. In between Karlan Grant missed an open goal from four yards for the visitors.

Mane added another header, this time from a Jordan Henderson cross, and Liverpool were so comfortable they were able to give Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 20 minutes after 367 days out with a knee injury.

He almost scored, denied by Lossl's outstretched leg. Mane was denied a hat-trick of headers by the post, but Salah could not miss from Robertson's 11th assist of the campaign.

Liverpool's thoughts now turn to the considerably more difficult proposition of Barcelona in the Nou Camp in a Champions League semi-final next week - but they may just have one eye on Turf Moor tomorrow.

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