Liverpool thrash Palace to close in on first league title since 1990

Liverpool (AFP) – Liverpool moved to the brink of celebrating a first league title in 30 years with a 4-0 win over Crystal Palace on their return to Anfield behind closed doors on Wednesday.

Jurgen Klopp’s men will be champions on Thursday should Manchester City fail to win at Chelsea or with a point when they face City in their next outing on July 2.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah, Fabinho and Sadio Mane scored the goals as Liverpool opened up a 23-point lead at the top of the table.

“Imagine if this stadium would have been full today and all the people could have experienced it live,” said Klopp. “I don’t think the game could have been better because my boys played like everybody was in the stadium.”

Before kick-off “You’ll Never Walk Alone” boomed around a deserted Anfield, but without the usual accompanying chorus of nearly 55,000 fans.

Instead, banners and flags were draped over The Kop on the night Liverpool could have clinched the title had they won the Merseyside derby on Sunday.

Klopp was able to bring back Salah and Andy Robertson from that 0-0 draw at Everton and the champions-elect were much more like their old selves as Palace struggled to keep the score respectable.

“There was a lot more rhythm and fluency than Sunday,” said Alexander-Arnold. “Today we’ve come out, started fast and didn’t really put a foot wrong in the whole game. It will go down as one of our best performances of the season.”

Alexander-Arnold opened the floodgates when he curled a sumptuous free-kick beyond the grasp of Wayne Hennessey to settle any nerves on 23 minutes.

Salah then showed the clinical touch Liverpool lacked on Sunday to control Fabinho’s excellent ball over the top and slot home his 21st goal of the season just before half-time.

“We tried hard to tell the boys how good the Everton game was apart from the last third,” added Klopp.

“Today was a reaction and I liked the game so much. 4-0 up in the 87th minute and four players chasing one Crystal Palace player like it’s the only ball in the world.”

Liverpool’s long wait for a title has been extended by three months due to the unprecedented coronavirus shutdown.

That wait could take just one more day, another week or slightly longer should City show their pride to win the battle of the top two next week.

However, there remains no doubt the title drought is coming to an end and as dominant a display from Klopp’s men as any this season underlined why they will be fitting champions.

“Tonight was a big step, that’s clear,” added Klopp. “We’ve all still got to play seven games, if we play like this it’s really not nice to play against us.

“I have to watch the game tomorrow because we play them one week later. That’s being professional and doing my job.”

Fabinho’s piledriver set the seal on a 23rd straight league win at Anfield as the Brazilian drilled home from fully 30 yards.

The front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Mane have been key to Liverpool’s rise over the past three years from struggling just to qualify for the Champions League to winning that competition last season and now running away with the English top-flight.

All three combined beautifully for the fourth 20 minutes from time as Firmino fed Salah, whose pass picked out the run of Mane and the Senegalese slotted into the far corner.