Liverpool moved to within touching distance of their first title in 30 years as Crystal Palace were brutally dismissed behind closed doors at Anfield.
Manchester City must now win at Chelsea on Thursday to further delay the inevitability of Liverpool’s coronation as Premier League champions.
After the goalless Merseyside derby at Everton on Sunday, they shook off the cobwebs in their first home game since the campaign was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic to beat Palace with almost embarrassing ease.
Anfield may have been home to only around 300 people but Liverpool played with familiar intensity, although Palace’s cause was hardly helped by the early loss of Wilfried Zaha to injury.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was on target with a superb free-kick after 22 minutes and Mohamed Salah effectively settled the contest with a cool finish from Fabinho’s brilliant pass just before the break.
And Fabinho produced something even more special in the 54th minute when he drilled a magnificent rising right-foot finish past Wayne Hennessey from more than 30 yards.
Salah turned provider after 69 minutes with a slide-rule pass to Sadio Mane, who finished with precision as Liverpool’s superiority was stamped all over this game.
Fabinho’s extra special night
Liverpool’s world-class attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah take most of the headlines – but no-one should underestimate the influence of Brazilian Fabinho.
The languid midfield man is the complete operator and showed all sides of his game in what turned into a stroll.
He ran midfield while demonstrating his class as a creator and goalscorer to simply underline the role he has played in Liverpool’s romp to the Premier League this season.
Fabinho’s pass to pick out Salah for Liverpool’s second goal was a masterpiece of touch and vision, while he again showed his potency from long range by flashing that stunning goal past the helpless Hennessey in front of a Kop populated by flags on what might be their last game before clinching the title.
Liverpool’s season has been a complete team performance and Fabinho, understated but hugely influential, has played his full part despite a lengthy absence through injury in the middle of the campaign.
Palace outclassed on painful night
Crystal Palace arrived at Anfield accompanied by talk of European qualification after a very solid showing under manager Roy Hodgson this season and their very impressive first ‘Project Restart’ win at Bournemouth on Saturday.
Palace had put together four straight Premier League wins but this was a harrowing night, not helped by losing Zaha, their most dangerous player, early on to an injury he appeared to pick up in the warm-up.
For all the good work Palace have done this term, they simply had no answer to Liverpool as they were ripped apart at regular intervals.
Taken in full context, this has still been a fine season for Palace, as they reside comfortably in the top 10.
‘It is a surreal experience’ – analysis
BBC football correspondent John Murray at Anfield
Liverpool were in the mood and that’s what Jurgen Klopp wanted to see.
A match behind closed doors at Anfield is just a surreal experience. Football is not meant to be like this. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was played out in front of a full and raucous Anfield, though – Liverpool played some fantastic football.
Ex-Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson on BBC Radio 5 Live:
Fabinho has been a good signing – it can take foreign players a while to settle. I can’t remember Jurgen Klopp buying anyone that hasn’t really done it apart from Loris Karius.
Man of the match – Fabinho (Liverpool)
‘We do not want to wait’ – what they said
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports: “Imagine how this stadium would have been full today and all the people could have experienced it live.
“I don’t think the game could have been better because my boys played like everybody was in the stadium. The atmosphere on the pitch was incredible. That was the best counter-pressing game I have ever seen.
“The boys are in good shape and in a good mood and it was important we showed our supporters we are still here and we do not want to wait.”
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson told Sky Sports: “We didn’t need to make any excuses really, but it’s a Liverpool team in incredible form. They were so aggressive, so good in winning the ball back, we had no opportunities to put our foot on the ball and ask them some questions.”
Goals, goals, goals – best of the stats
- This was Liverpool’s 20th win at Anfield in all competitions this season (23rd home match), making them the first club in Europe’s big-five leagues to win 20 home matches in 2019-20
- Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool have now won more Premier League games against Crystal Palace (eight) than they have against any other opponent
- Having kept four consecutive clean sheets prior to this defeat, Crystal Palace conceded as many goals against Liverpool in this game as they had in their previous six Premier League games combined
- Liverpool extended their top-flight record to 23 consecutive home victories; the Reds have scored 67 goals in those 23 wins while conceding just 15 in reply
- Liverpool have now scored 100+ goals in all competitions for a third consecutive season, the first time they have done so since 1986-87 (eight in a row)
- Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick was his 30th Premier League goal involvement (five goals, 25 assists); since his debut in December 2016, this is more than any other defender in the competition
- Mane became the 10th player to score in six consecutive Premier League appearances against a single opponent, and the second to do so for Liverpool after Mohamed Salah v Bournemouth.
- Fabinho celebrated his 41st victory in what was his 50th Premier League appearance; only Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben, Ederson (all 42) and Aymeric Laporte (43) won more of their opening 50 games in the competition.
Liverpool could travel to Manchester City as champions on Thursday, 2 July (20:15 BST kick-off). Meanwhile, Crystal Palace host Burnley on Monday, 29 June (20:00 kick-off).