Freshly crowned Club World Cup champion Liverpool took a giant stride towards its first English top flight title in 30 years with a 4-0 Boxing Day rout of closest challenger Leicester City.
Roberto Firmino, who scored the winner in the extra time victory over Flamengo in Qatar, grabbed a double as Jurgen Klopp’s high flyers stretched their lead at the top to 13 points with a remarkable 17th win from 18 English Premier League matches.
In a one-sided encounter at Leicester’s King Power Stadium, substitute James Milner from the penalty spot and an inspired Trent Alexander-Arnold added the other goals in a stunning victory.
Full back Alexander-Arnold provided the assists for both Firmino’s goals, the first the opener on 31 minutes, his firm header beating Kasper Schmeichel’s despairing dive.
Mo Salah came close to adding a second either side of the break, but it finally came with 20 minutes remaining as a corner hit Caglar Soyuncu’s arm and Liverpool was awarded a penalty.
Substitute James Milner’s first touch was to slot home the spot kick and soon after the Alexander-Arnold – Firmino double act was up and running again as the Brazilian forward scored his second from a precise low pass.
It was Alexander Arnold’s 20th assist since the start of last season and he rounded off a superb performance with a goal of his own with 12 minutes remaining to seal a memorable victory.
“We played really good football after all the traveling and intense period, yes it is the best performance of the season and we controlled it, to get four goals is something to be proud of,” the England international told Amazon Prime Video.
Schmeichel was unhappy with the penalty award as his side slumped to a second straight defeat after losing 3-1 to Manchester City at last Saturday.
“I think it was a bit tough. We were in the game until the referee had to make himself a hero,” he told Amazon. “Then we lost our composure. They are the best side in the world along with Manchester City.
“We strive to be like Manchester City and Liverpool but they are a lot further along in their journey.”
Klopp, who has spoken out against his side’s congested December fixture list, knows that the tests are still coming thick and fast.
“In three days we play Wolves, they are having an exceptional season. In six days we play Sheffield United, they are playing an exceptional season. Then we play Everton (in the FA Cup).
“We are completely focused on what we have to do. I never want to have a party without a reason,” he added.
Reigning champion Manchester City can cut the gap to 11 points with victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers Friday, but whatever the result of that encounter there are few betting against Liverpool securing its 19th English championship crown come the end of the season.