Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the to an imposing nine points with a devastating attacking dismissal of at Anfield – with hat-trick hero Roberto Firmino the inspiration.

took the lead after only 11 minutes when Ainsley Maitland-Niles slid in at the far post to score from Alex Iwobi’s cross – but it was a false dawn for Unai Emery’s side.

Liverpool, lifted after title rivals Tottenham’s home defeat to earlier, responded with an explosive display that saw them 4-1 up by the interval and on their way to continuing their unbeaten league run to 20 games.

Firmino took advantage of ’s defensive confusion to quickly equalise then slalom past a posse of defenders to put Liverpool in front after lost possession, all in the space of two minutes.

Sadio Mane extended Liverpool’s lead after 32 minutes when Andrew Robertson’s long cross exposed after they needlessly conceded a corner, before Mo Salah effectively ended the contest from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time after he had been fouled by Sokratis.

Liverpool then cruised to close out the win, Firmino completing his hat-trick from the spot after 65 minutes following ’s push on Dejan Lovren.

, ten points adrift, will attempt to close the gap at Southampton on Sunday before they meet Liverpool in a pivotal encounter at Etihad Stadium on 3 January.

Liverpool deliver an ominous response

When Liverpool went behind to Maitland-Niles’ 11th minute strike, it was the first time they had trailed at Anfield in the since Leicester City led here on 30 December last year.

If there were any nerves troubling the new pace-setters, this might have been the moment for them to show – but not a bit of it.

Liverpool, admittedly helped by and by a huge roar that swept around Anfield, were ahead in five minutes thanks to two Firmino goals and never looked back.

Instead of shrinking in the face of a setback, it was simply a case of prodding the beast as Liverpool swarmed forward in the style that has become their trademark under Jurgen Klopp to record another statement win in this hugely impressive season.

After a period earlier in the campaign when the sparkle of last season was not quite there, Liverpool’s stardust is being sprinkled once more, led by that potent attacking trident of Firmino, Mane and Salah.

And the signs are ominous for the chasing pack, effectively Spurs and , who want to deprive Liverpool of their first title since 1990.

They have won 88 points from 37 league games in this calendar year – the highest points ratio in that spell in the club’s history at 2.38 points per game.

This statistic alone outlines the scale of their performances and means they are now rightly title favourites.

Liverpool’s greatest test of the season now awaits when they travel to – but such is the level of confidence surging through a team that looks more like the complete package with every passing week, it is a challenge they will accept without any degree of concern.

a team of two halves

, in spells in the first half, posed a genuine threat to Liverpool and even had the brief hope given to them when Maitland-Niles put them ahead early on.

The Gunners, however, were let down by defending that threatened to give farce a bad name and they were blown away by half-time.

From Torreira’s clearance that allowed Firmino to waltz past a statuesque selection of defenders as Liverpool went ahead, to keeper Bernd Leno’s cheap concession of a corner that eventually ended in Mane’s crucial third, were complicit in allowing Klopp’s side to inflict damage on them.

Emery has produced much to admire in the early phases of his succession to Arsene Wenger but have stumbled since Southampton ended their 22-match unbeaten run with a 3-2 defeat at St Mary’s.

The Gunners lost in the Carabao Cup at home to Tottenham and were held to a draw by Brighton before this loss – and it is clear where Emery’s problems lie.

have potency going forward, particularly in the shape of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and – on the bench here – but keeper Leno looks vulnerable and Liverpool’s quality and intensity going forward hurt them as they are so defensively flawed against top-class opposition.

They were the first visitors to concede four first-half goals since they themselves were the victims of another Liverpool blitz in February 2014.

In the final reckoning, this was why this was yet another tale of misery at Anfield.

Man of the match – Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

Roberto Firmino

A high-scoring affair – the stats

  • versus Liverpool, with 155 goals, is now the highest scoring fixture in history.
  • Liverpool have accrued 54 points from their opening 20 games this season; under the system of three points for a win, only (55 in 2005-06) and (58 in 2017-18) have ever had more at this stage in English top-flight history.
  • Jurgen Klopp’s side are now unbeaten in 31 games at Anfield, their joint-longest ever unbeaten home run in the competition, having also gone 31 without defeat between December 2007 and August 2009.
  • The Reds fell behind in a game at Anfield for the first time since 30 December, 2017 against Leicester City, 364 days ago.
  • conceded four goals in the first half of a game for the fourth time, with Liverpool responsible for two of those – also in February 2014.
  • are now without a win in their last 20 away league games against fellow “big-six” opposition, losing 10 of their last 12 such matches.
  • Roberto Firmino has been directly involved in 11 goals in his eight games against for Liverpool, more than he has against any other opponent in the competition.
  • Firmino’s hat-trick is the sixth to have been scored in fixtures between and Liverpool in the – the most hat-tricks in a single fixture in history. He becomes the third Brazilian player to score a hat-trick.
  • Mohamed Salah has both scored and assisted in the same game for the 10th time since the start of last season for Liverpool; only (11) has done so on more occasions in the big-five European leagues in that time.

What’s next?

host Fulham on New Year’s Day (15:00 GMT) while Liverpool travel to Etihad Stadium to face reigning champions on Thursday, 3 January (20:00).

Line-ups

Liverpool

  • 13Alisson
  • 66Alexander-Arnold
  • 6Lovren
  • 4
  • 26RobertsonBooked at 26minsSubstituted forClyneat 83′minutes
  • 5WijnaldumSubstituted forLallanaat 78′minutes
  • 3Fabinho
  • 23Shaqiri
  • 9Roberto Firmino
  • 10ManéSubstituted forHendersonat 62′minutes
  • 11Salah

Substitutes

  • 2Clyne
  • 8Keita
  • 14Henderson
  • 15Sturridge
  • 20Lallana
  • 22Mignolet
  • 27Origi

  • 19Leno
  • 12Lichtsteiner
  • 20MustafiSubstituted forKoscielnyat 45′minutes
  • 5PapastathopoulosBooked at 90mins
  • 31KolasinacSubstituted forGuendouziat 80′minutes
  • 11Torreira
  • 34XhakaBooked at 33mins
  • 15Maitland-Niles
  • 8Ramsey
  • 17Iwobi
  • 14AubameyangSubstituted forLacazetteat 71′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Cech
  • 4Elneny
  • 6Koscielny
  • 9Lacazette
  • 29Guendouzi
  • 59Willock
  • 87Saka
Referee:
Michael Oliver
Attendance:
53,326

Match Stats

Home TeamLiverpoolAway Team
Possession
Home48%
Away52%
Shots
Home15
Away8
Shots on Target
Home10
Away2
Corners
Home5
Away3
Fouls
Home8
Away13

Live Text

Match ends, Liverpool 5, 1.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Liverpool 5, 1.

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Booking

Sokratis () is shown the yellow card.

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Bernd Leno.

Attempt saved. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Adam Lallana.

Laurent Koscielny () wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Mohamed Salah (Liverpool).

Attempt missed. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Attempt missed. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.

Substitution

Substitution, Liverpool. Nathaniel Clyne replaces Andrew Robertson.

Stephan Lichtsteiner () wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Andrew Robertson (Liverpool).

Corner, . Conceded by Fabinho.

Attempt blocked. () right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Sokratis.

Foul by Adam Lallana (Liverpool).

Substitution

Substitution, Liverpool. Adam Lallana replaces Georginio Wijnaldum.

Foul by Fabinho (Liverpool).

Attempt saved. Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Georginio Wijnaldum.

Offside, Liverpool. Jordan Henderson tries a through ball, but Mohamed Salah is caught offside.

Attempt blocked. Aaron Ramsey () right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Alex Iwobi.

Goal!

Goal! Liverpool 5, 1. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.

Penalty Liverpool. Dejan Lovren draws a foul in the penalty area.

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Bernd Leno.

Attempt saved. Fabinho (Liverpool) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Mohamed Salah with a through ball.

Substitution

Substitution, Liverpool. Jordan Henderson replaces Sadio Mané.

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Laurent Koscielny.

Attempt blocked. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Roberto Firmino.

Attempt saved. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Xherdan Shaqiri.

Attempt missed. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang () header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Offside, . Aaron Ramsey tries a through ball, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is caught offside.

Attempt blocked. Aaron Ramsey () left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Granit Xhaka.

Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

goal

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