LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp believes Liverpool made a statement in not just returning to winning ways with a 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday, but the manner in which they regained a three-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah scored the goals as Klopp’s men showed little sign of the nerves and mistakes in recent 1-1 draws with Leicester and West Ham that had cut their advantage over the champions.
“We knew we were not happy with our performance in the last two or three games,” said Klopp.
“We don’t want to come through somehow in a game, we want to play convincing football we want to perform. That was the reaction we wanted to show today.”
Ahead of the game Klopp had called on his side to enjoy the “excitement” of what promises to be a thrilling title race rather than being bogged down by the nerves of recent displays as they seek to end a 29-year wait to win the title.
And after Mane broke the deadlock midway through the first half to relieve any lasting tension around Anfield, Liverpool settled back into the stride that saw them win nine Premier League games in a row through November and December.
James Milner again deputised at right-back with Trent Alexander-Arnold only fit enough to return from injury on the bench and his cross was powerfully headed home by Mane for his fourth goal in as many games.
Wijnaldum’s return was Klopp’s only change from the 1-1 draw at West Ham on Monday and the Dutch midfielder’s presence made a huge difference despite the fact he did not stay at the team’s hotel the night before the game due to illness.
“It’s been a tough few weeks with players injured and ill. Georginio Wijnaldum was nowhere to be seen yesterday and then he produces a performance like that,” said Milner.
“Some of the play was mesmerising. We could have scored more.
“We’re very lucky with squad we have, the movement, link-up and understanding. I thought it was a good team performance.”
Wijnaldum capped his performance by giving his side some breathing space in stunning fashion 11 minutes before the break.
Andy Robertson picked out Wijnaldum’s run into the box and he took a touch before delicately lifting a lob over the helpless Artur Boruc.
Salah was made to wait for his 20th goal of the season by a string of Boruc saves, but finally extended his lead as the Premier League’s top scorer three minutes into the second period after a wonderful flick from Firmino teed him up.
“He was pretty much undefendable,” Klopp said of Salah.
“Exactly the football he is able to play and we want him to play. Not only in the scoring moments, in the build up situations as well.
“The goal he scored I don’t think you will find a lot of players who did what Bobby did in that moment.”
While City continue to fight for silverware on four fronts, a second warm weather training trip in a matter of weeks now lies in wait for Liverpool thanks to their early exit from the FA Cup.
Klopp’s men are not in action again until Bayern Munich’s visit in the Champions League in 10 days’ time.
“Our counter pressing was the best for a while, which for us is always a sign for a good game. It was good time to get it back,” added Klopp.
That extra freshness could ultimately swing the title Liverpool’s way with 12 games left to hold onto their lead.