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Liverpool thrash Huddersfield to regain top spot

Liverpool swept Huddersfield aside with ease in a 5-0 win to return to the top of the Premier League. A record-setting Naby Keita goal after just 15 seconds set them on their way, while Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah both scored twice. The result sees the Reds move onto an incredible 91 points with two games still to play. Will it be enough? Who knows, but whatever happens this team has already proven themselves to be something special.

Positives

Great goals, great football and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his long awaited comeback. All in all a great night.

Negatives

The only downside to any of this is that unless Manchester City drop points this wonderful Liverpool side will be denied the league title they feel they deserve.

Manager rating out of 10

8 -- With Roberto Firmino sidelined, Klopp selected Daniel Sturridge ahead of Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri, while also electing to recall Dejan Lovren and give Joel Matip a rest. In truth, Huddersfield were so poor he could have made more changes and still won the game comfortably, but it's good to see the German not taking any unnecessary risks with his selections.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Alisson Becker, 7 -- Kept his 20th Premier League clean sheet of the season but did not have to work especially hard to do so. Made one good save to deny Juninho Bacuna but that was about it.

DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 8 -- Top class. Produced some wonderful passes, not least an inch perfect ball to Salah for the third goal and a fine cross to Sturridge that resulted in a goal that was called back for offside.

DF Dejan Lovren, 7 -- Solid display. Passed accurately, competed well with Huddersfield's physical front players and could even have scored with a well struck but poorly directed late volley.

DF Virgil Van Dijk, 7 -- Makes everything look so easy. Rarely had to get out of second gear but gave the crowd a scare when he stayed down after winning an aerial challenge. A concerned hush was followed by a relieved cheer as he got to his feet. Everybody knows just how important the Netherlands international is to Liverpool's hopes of silverware.

DF Andrew Robertson, 9 -- Incredible levels of stamina and bags of quality. The Scot raided up and down the left flank all evening and provided two more assists to an ever growing list.

MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 8 -- Very efficient in the holding role once again. Rarely gives the ball away and is always in the right position. Given a well earned rest when he made way for Oxlade-Chamberlain.

MF Jordan Henderson, 8 -- Outstanding once again and is currently playing as well as he ever has. Even had his name chanted by the Kop on more than one occasion, which was nice to hear as it doesn't happen often enough. Should have scored but typically couldn't keep his shot down.

MF Naby Keita, 8 -- Another encouraging performance from the Guinean who looks to have finally settled after a difficult start. Opened the scoring with a nice finish and was very good at both ends of the pitch, passing the ball well and showing a great appetite to get back and help out defensively when needed.

FW Mohamed Salah, 9 -- Sensational at times. Scored two good goals to take the outright lead in the Golden Boot race and almost added two more that would have been goal of the season contenders. Also laid on the opener for Keita and has hit his best form just in time to face Barcelona next week.

FW Daniel Sturridge, 6 -- Surprise selection in place of the injured Roberto Firmino. Understandably off the pace at times but generally did OK. Had a goal disallowed for offside and showed some nice touches before being replaced by Shaqiri.

FW Sadio Mane, 9 -- Continued the great form that saw him named in the PFA Team of the Year. Found the net twice with his head and only the post denied him a third.

Substitutes

MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, NR -- After over a year on the sidelines he's finally back, and he looks razor sharp. Almost capped an emotional night with a goal right after coming on, but was denied by the keeper.

FW Xherdan Shaqiri, NR -- The cheer that greeted his arrival was almost as loud as that Oxlade-Chamberlain received. The popular Switzerland forward has barely featured for months but he provided a timely reminder of what he can do with an impressive cameo.

DF Joe Gomez, NR -- Given a few minutes at right-back late on.

Liverpool swept Huddersfield aside with ease in a 5-0 win to return to the top of the Premier League. A Naby Keita goal after just 15 seconds set them on their way, while Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah both scored twice. The result sees the Reds move onto an incredible 91 points with two games still to play. Will it be enough? Who knows, but whatever happens this team has already proven themselves to be something special.

Positives

Great goals, great football and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his long awaited comeback. All in all a great night.

Negatives

The only downside to any of this is that unless Manchester City drop points this wonderful Liverpool side will be denied the league title they feel they deserve.

Manager rating out of 10

8 -- With Roberto Firmino sidelined, Klopp selected Daniel Sturridge ahead of Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri, while also electing to recall Dejan Lovren and give Joel Matip a rest. In truth, Huddersfield were so poor he could have made more changes and still won the game comfortably, but it's good to see the German not taking any unnecessary risks with his selections.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Alisson Becker, 7 -- Kept his 20th Premier League clean sheet of the season but did not have to work especially hard to do so. Made one good save to deny Juninho Bacuna but that was about it.

DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 8 -- Top class. Produced some wonderful passes, not least an inch perfect ball to Salah for the third goal.

DF Dejan Lovren, 7 -- Solid display. Passed accurately, competed well with Huddersfield's physical front players and could even have scored with a well struck but poorly directed late volley.

DF Virgil Van Dijk, 7 -- Makes everything look so easy. Rarely had to get out of second gear but gave the crowd a scare when he stayed down after winning an aerial challenge. A concerned hush was followed by a relieved cheer as he got to his feet. Everybody knows just how important the Dutchman is to Liverpool's hopes of silverware.

DF Andrew Robertson, 9 -- Incredible levels of stamina and bags of quality. The Scot raided up and down that left flank all evening and provided two more assists to an ever growing list.

MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 8 -- Very efficient in the holding role once again. Rarely gives the ball away and is always in the right position. Given a well earned rest when he made way for Oxlade-Chamberlain.

MF Jordan Henderson, 8 -- Outstanding once again and is currently playing as well as he ever has. Even had his name chanted by the Kop on more than one occasion, which was nice to hear as it doesn't happen often enough. Should have scored but typically couldn't keep his shot down.

MF Naby Keita, 8 -- Another encouraging performance from the Guinean who looks to have finally settled after a difficult start. Opened the scoring with a nice finish and was very good at both ends of the pitch, passing the ball well and showing a great appetite to get back and help out defensively when needed.

FW Mohamed Salah, 9 -- Sensational at times. Scored two good goals and almost added two more that would have been goal of the season contenders. Also laid on the opener for Keita and has hit his best form just in time to face Barcelona next week.

FW Daniel Sturridge, 6 -- Surprise selection in place of the injured Roberto Firmino. Understandably off the pace at times but generally did ok. Had a goal disallowed for offside and showed some nice touches before being replaced by Xherdan Shaqiri.

FW Sadio Mane, 9 -- Continued the great form that saw him named in the PFA Team of the Year. Found the net twice with his head and only the post denied him a third.

Substitutes:

MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, NR -- After over a year on the sidelines he's finally back, and he looks razor sharp. Almost capped an emotional night with a goal but was denied by the keeper.

FW Xherdan Shaqiri, NR -- The cheer that greeted his arrival was almost as loud as that Oxlade-Chamberlain received. The popular Swiss forward has barely featured for months but he provided a timely reminder of what he can do with an impressive cameo.

DF Joe Gomez, NR -- Given a few minutes at right back late on.

LIVERPOOL, England -- Mohamed Salah was tweeting pictures from a pizza restaurant in New York City on Tuesday afternoon before going on to share the spotlight with Taylor Swift and Emilia Clarke at the Time 100 Gala at the Lincoln Center later that evening.

He then flew back across the Atlantic on Wednesday, reporting for training at Liverpool on Thursday, so it's fair to say that the forward ignored a few of the classic "dos and don'ts" when it comes to preparing for a big game ahead of his team's 5-0 victory against Huddersfield Town on Friday. But by the end of the game, which saw Jurgen Klopp's side reclaim top spot in the Premier League and move two points clear of Manchester City, nobody was questioning Salah's decision to spend two days in the United States ahead of a fixture that Liverpool simply had to win.

Had it gone wrong, with Liverpool dropping points or Salah picking up an injury that risked his participation against Barcelona in next week's Champions League semifinal first leg, then the 26-year-old would doubtless have been forced to defend himself against accusations of taking his eye off the ball. Certainly, it is difficult to imagine Manchester United's Paul Pogba making a similar trip without finding himself deluged by criticism and suggestions of poor preparation and misguided priorities.

But perhaps the difference between Salah and Pogba is that the Liverpool forward, whose two goals against Huddersfield made him the top scorer in the Premier League this season with 21 so far, always delivers, no matter what the circumstances. He might not score in every game, but even when he does not hit the back of the net, Salah's eight Premier League assists this term highlight his contribution as a team player.

It was the same against Huddersfield, with Salah creating the opening goal for Naby Keita after just 16 seconds by feeding his teammate after a defensive mistake by Jon Gorenc Stankovic. The fact that Salah went on to score twice himself felt like a footnote to his performance, which belied any hint of jet lag following his trip to New York, which was approved by Klopp due to the manager's insistence that the player is an influential figure in the battle against racism and Islamophobia.

"Mo is a very smart person and his role is very influential," Klopp said. "In the world at the moment, it is very important that you have people like Mo."

Perhaps in the world of modern sport, where players are surrounded by every kind of expert capable of making them discover that elusive extra 1 percent, a 48-hour trans-Atlantic trip really is nothing to worry about in terms of performance and recovery. After all, international footballers can make the journey from Bolivia to Burnley and still get off a plane ready to play 90 minutes of Premier League action, so New York to the northwest of England really isn't that much of an ordeal.

But it also goes to show how the likes of Salah can rise to the occasion, no matter how draining or gruelling their schedule. The former Chelsea and Roma forward has not hit the heights of last season, when he scored 32 goals in 36 Premier League games, but nobody else has registered more league goals than him this campaign.

Sadio Mane's two headers against Huddersfield took him to 20 league goals to move ahead of Sergio Aguero and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (both on 19) as Salah's closest challenger for the Golden Boot, but don't be surprised if the Egyptian wins it again. This was his 100th appearance for Liverpool in all competitions since his £36.9 million transfer from Roma in July 2017 and, by scoring twice to take his tally for the club to 69, he claimed the Anfield record for most goals in his first 100 games.

Whether Salah's goal-scoring feats are enough to win silverware for his team is another matter, however. Although this win moved Liverpool on to 91 points, City can climb ahead of them again on Sunday with a victory at Burnley.

Two more victories, against Newcastle and Wolves, will see Liverpool end the season on 97 points, but it might still not be enough to win the title for the first time since 1990. It definitely won't be enough if City win their final three games to end up with 98 points.

Liverpool have lost just once in the league all season -- against City at the Etihad -- and they have now scored 104 goals in all competitions. Neither they nor Salah could have feasibly done much more, but they could still fall short.

ESPN