LONDON (AP) — Mohamed Salah made sure he had the final say in Liverpool's 7-0 rout of Crystal Palace after being dropped from the starting lineup on Saturday, scoring twice after coming off the bench.
The Premier League's top scorer was unusually benched — by coincidence or not — hours after an interview was published in which he flirted with a move to Spain and grumbled about not captaining the English champions.
After coming off the bench in the second half, the Egyptian netted the final two goals inside three minutes late in the second half.
“We needed fresh legs today,” Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said. “It's a massively intense period … bringing him the last half hour was a pretty good idea.”
Klopp pointedly steered clear of publicly addressing the interview published on Saturday morning in which Salah when asked about his Liverpool future told Spanish newspaper AS: “That’s a tough one, but right now I can say that everything is in the club’s hands.”
In his fourth season at Liverpool, Salah has another two remaining on his current deal.
“Nothing to say from my side,” Klopp said.
With Salah not starting, it was a rare chance for Roberto Firmino and one the striker seized with his first double in a Premier League game in 650 days. Salah was the provider of Firmino's second in the 68th minute.
This ruthless attacking display began with Takumi Minamino scoring his first league goal exactly a year after his transfer was announced by Liverpool.
Sadio Mane and captain Jordan Henderson were also on target as Liverpool claimed its biggest away win in the league since 1991 to go six points clear of Tottenham at the top.
It was an empathic way of ending a five-game winless run away from Anfield in the league.
“Over the last few games we’ve had some chances and not taken them and that’s cost us,” Henderson said. "But today we managed to finish our chances and that’s always important in football.”
It helped having the goals assisted by seven different players — starting with Mane providing the opening for Minamino to strike in the opening two minutes.
There was a flicker of a Palace threat before the onslaught from Liverpool that saw Firmino slip the ball through for Mane, who went past Nathaniel Clyne on the turn before slotting in the second in the 35th minute.
Firmino started the move inside his own half that ended with him scoring just before halftime. A cross-field pass was sent to Andy Robertson and Firmino raced forward to receive the ball back from the left flank before being gifted time and space to grab the third for Liverpool.
It was Trent Alexander-Arnold's cutback that Henderson curled into the top corner seven minutes into the second half.
Then, it was Salah's time to shine, first as the provider before Firmino chipped goalkeeper Vicente Guaita in the 68th.
Salah had to wait until the 81st to score himself, nodding in after Joel Matip headed on a corner from Alexander-Arnold.
And the Egyptian curled his 13th of the league season into the top left after being set up by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who came off the bench for his first appearance since July following a knee injury.
The only relief perhaps for Palace was that fans were spared from witnessing this humiliation.
Unlike when Palace held Tottenham last Sunday, no fans were allowed into Selhurst Park with London now subject to more stringent coronavirus restrictions again.
“It’s very hard to speak after that kind of defeat," Palace captain Luka Milivojevic said. “I’ve never had something like that in my life. They were so clinical.”
By ROB HARRIS AP Global Soccer Writer