Liverpool once again put the pressure back on Manchester City as they returned to the top of the Premier League with an emphatic win over Huddersfield at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are now two points clear of the reigning champions, who have a game in hand, with Naby Keita’s goal after 15 seconds setting the tone for a dominant display.
Winning possession high in Huddersfield territory, the Guinea midfielder swept a close-range effort into the bottom left corner from Mohamed Salah’s pass to record the Reds’ quickest goal in a Premier League match.
It was also Liverpool’s 100th goal in all competitions this term, and they doubled their lead when Sadio Mane glanced Andrew Robertson’s superb cross into the bottom right corner.
Salah then lobbed Town goalkeeper Jonas Lossl on the stroke of half-time to deliver a third after running on to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ball forward.
While Huddersfield twice went close to scoring through Juninho Bacuna and Karlan Grant, it remained largely one-way traffic after the break.
Salah and Keita both went close to their second goals of the evening before Mane headed in his second from Jordan Henderson’s cross to briefly become the Premier League’s joint-top scorer, on 20 goals.
However his Egyptian team-mate Salah regained that honour, converting from another Robertson delivery in the closing stages to move on to 21 goals, sealing a fine team performance.
Liverpool have now amassed more points than Arsenal’s unbeaten “Invincibles” team of 2003-04 and have 12 points more than the Manchester United Treble-winning team of 1998-99.
No team has ever reached this number of points (91) and not gone on to win the title.
Manchester City, though, can regain top spot if they win their game in hand at Burnley on Sunday (14:05 BST), after which both teams have two games left.
Usual suspects spark rampant Reds
If there were fears this could turn into a nervy occasion, they were quickly dispelled by a lightning-fast start in which visiting midfielder Jon Gorenc Stankovic was robbed of possession for Keita’s opener.
Liverpool’s high press was hardly unexpected but it did the early damage before the usual suspects took over.
Robertson displayed the form that has seen him rewarded with a place in the PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year, driving forward from left-back at every opportunity.
His contribution to Mane’s first goal and Salah’s second saw him equal a Premier League record of 11 assists from a defender in a season.
Mane, who was also endorsed by his contemporaries and is a contender for the main PFA Player of the Year award on Sunday, showcased his ability to find space between defenders, directing two excellent headers past Lossl to record his 19th and 20th league goals of a prolific season.
That ensured Liverpool became the first club to have two players score 20 goals or more in a Premier League season since Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge accomplished the same feat in 2013-14, also for the Reds.
Salah’s two-goal return also saw him become only the third Liverpool player to pass 20 or more Premier League goals in consecutive seasons for the club, placing him in the same company as Robbie Fowler (1994-95 and 1995-96) and Luis Suarez (2012-13 and 2013-14).
His overall tally of 69 goals in 100 games does, however, separate him from those former heroes and is the highest number of goals managed by any Liverpool player after a century of appearances.
Klopp will have also been satisfied with his team’s fluency in attack even without Roberto Firmino, who was nursing a thigh injury.
The Brazilian is expected to be fit for Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg at Barcelona, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who returned from injury to make his first appearance since April 2018, will also bolster his options.
Huddersfield surrender to gulf in quality
At the same stage last term, Huddersfield were still embroiled in a fight for Premier League survival – but this campaign has struck an entirely different tone.
David Wagner – the architect of that triumph and the Terriers’ first promotion to the top flight since 1972 – left in January and his successor Jan Siewert has been unable to recalibrate their fortunes.
This thumping defeat leaves Town with just four points from the last 69 available and a compendium of unwanted records loom.
The 77-point difference between them and Liverpool represents the biggest gap between the top and bottom club since the Premier League was formed.
And this loss – their 28th of the season – moved them within one of the Premier League record for the most defeats, which is currently shared by Ipswich, Sunderland and Derby.
With two games to go against Manchester United and at Southampton, there is now the realistic prospect they could end up as the sole owners of that undesirable tag.
Their failings here were symptomatic of their season; albeit the quality of their opponents only exacerbated them.
Stankovic – a defender deployed in midfield – lacked the awareness to shift the ball away from Keita, giving the visitors an early mountain to climb.
And both of Mane’s headers were too easily dispatched against a side that has now conceded 74 goals in 36 games.
While endeavour was not absent – Huddersfield covered more ground than their opponents (111.97km to 110.34km) – the visitors’ failure to capitalise on promising situations made for a comfortable night for the hosts.