Liverpool 6-0 Leeds: Salah double edges Reds closer to Manchester City
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates with teammates after scoring their team's third goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Leeds United at Anfield on February 23, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

A dominant Liverpool thrashed Leeds United 6-0 at Anfield to narrow the gap between themselves and Manchester City to just three points at the top of the Premier League.

Two first half penalties from Mohamed Salah, either side of an exquisite move rounded off with a delicate Joel Matip finish, handed the Reds a dream cushion heading into the interval. 

And after an understandably low-key start to the second half, Klopp's men fired three goals in the final ten minutes - which included a brace from Sadio Mane - to give the Kop the perfect send-off ahead of Sunday's showpiece Wembley final against Chelsea.

The story of the game

Klopp made five changes to the side that staged an impressive second-half fightback to beat Norwich at Anfield on Saturday afternoon, which came just hours before Manchester City were surprisingly defeated by Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at the Etihad. 

Curtis Jones made his return to the line-up having missed the Reds’ last three games in all competitions due to the embarrassment of riches Klopp now has at his disposal.

Full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were both reinstated into their respective positions while the Liverpool manager welcomed the luxury of being able to name Fabinho and Thiago in his starting line-up alongside Jones.

Leeds, looking to bounce back after suffering back-to-back League defeats to Manchester United and Everton, named star winger Raphinha in the side. 

A Liverpool side, featuring plenty of faces supporters will expect to see lineup under the Wembley arch on Sunday afternoon, started like a house on fire at Anfield. With a couple of bold, early efforts from Luis Diaz setting the tempo for the crucial affair on Merseyside. 

However, it was Marcelo Bielsa’s men who came closest to taking the lead as a lackadaisical piece of play from Alisson saw Dan James nick the ball off his toe inside the box. Though, Matip was perfectly placed to clear the danger just yards from the goal-line as the Reds were dealt a brief wake-up call.

Leeds’ resilience didn’t last long as Robertson’s searching cross into the box was handled by Stuart Dallas, which gave Liverpool’s Egyptian King the chance to grab his 18th Premier League goal of the season from the spot.

And it was a chance that he dispatched with ease, sending Illan Meslier the wrong way. 

Just moments after the Reds had made a breakthrough, Diaz continued his impressive start as he picked the ball up from deep and left Luke Ayling for dead before eventually working his way into the box on the angle, but he could only fire his tamed effort straight at the French shot-stopper.

The Whites thought they had been granted a lifeline, and the foundations for a potential point, when Raphinha converted Jack Harrison’s drilled from close range after 28 minutes. However, the winger was rightly flagged for offside as he had started his run a fair few inches ahead of Robertson - who was holding the Reds’ much-discussed defensive line.

As Leeds were left deflated by the linesman’s decision, Anfield was treated to an occasion they had craved since August. Defender Matip has forged himself a reputation as one of the best dribblers of the ball at the club in recent months, and he once again fancied his chances of getting on the scoresheet. 

Picking the ball up from inside his own half, the Cameroonian ventured beyond the Leeds midfield, glaring left and right for options, before playing it out to Salah on the right for an immediate one-two.

After arriving into the box like one of the Premier League’s great goal-scoring midfielders, he emphatically fired his effort over a helpless Meslier to double the home side's advantage and hand Klopp’s side a crucial cushion with half-time on the horizon. 

However, there was still time - 10 minutes before the interval - for Liverpool to further extend their lead as a wonderful through ball from Salah set Mane away. And with Luke Ayling trailing, the Leeds defender clipped the heels of the Senegal international which left Michael Oliver with no choice but to point to the spot once more.

Salah, once again tasked with beating Meslier from the spot, again outfoxed his opposite number as he opted for the same side but this time implemented plenty of height to this kick - which was too much elevation for the Leeds goalkeeper to reach.

The Egyptian could have been heading into the changing rooms with the match ball at halftime if it wasn’t for a brilliant goal-line clearance from defender Junior Firpo, which denied him his second Premier League hat-trick of the season.

It was a lacklustre start to the second half as both sides appeared content with the scoreline, but it was in fact the away side who were presented with the best half-chances after the break.

Firstly, from Stuart Dallas as he was teed up by Firpo for the opportunity to test Alisson from inside the box, but he spooned his effort wide of the Brazilian's post with a finish that summed up Leeds’ evening.

Liverpool left it late to put the icing on an impeccable showing as Mane fired a brace from close range inside the last 10 minutes before Van Dijk powered home Andy Robertson’s corner deep into additional time.

Starting XI's 

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Jones; Salah, Diaz, Mane.

Leeds: Meslier, Dallas, Ayling, Struijk, Firpo; Forshaw, Raphinha, Klich, Rodrigo, Harrison, James

 

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