(REUTERS, AFP) - Liverpool maintained their best start to a season as Mo Salah, back at his dazzling best, scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 win at Bournemouth that took them, temporarily at least, to the top of the English Premier League on Saturday (Dec 8).
Salah set them on their way in the 25th minute, latching on to the rebound after Roberto Firmino's 30m shot was palmed into his path by Asmir Begovic, even though television replays showed the Egyptian to be marginally offside when he pounced.
There was no argument about his second straight after the interval, when Firmino again freed him to maraud on goal and fire into the corner, with the help of the slightest nick off Nathan Ake's heel.
After the unfortunate Steve Cook diverted Andy Robertson's cross past Begovic for an own goal, Salah worked his real magic, outmuscling Cook to get to Adam Lallana's through ball before dancing nimbly around Begovic to slot home.
Salah's treble at the Vitality Stadium put him on 10 goals for the season, matching Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the top of the scoring charts that he dominated last season.
Against the tough, seventh-placed opponents, Jurgen Klopp's side went a 17th straight league match unbeaten, equalling their club record set 10 years ago, and emulated their 4-0 thrashing of the Cherries in the corresponding fixture last season.
It put Liverpool a point clear of Manchester City at the summit on 42 points, though Pep Guardiola's men have the chance to regain top spot later when they visit Chelsea.
Manager Klopp described Salah's performance as "brilliant".
"The whole game was brilliant from him today - not only the goals," he told the BBC. "He wanted to help with runs in behind and him scoring three goals is big for him and very important for us."
Liverpool face a tough week ahead - they play Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday with their hopes of progressing to the knockout phase in the balance and Manchester United next weekend.
"It is always a huge week," said Klopp. "Napoli is a tough one and then Man United - we all know what can happen there. Hopefully we can stay fit. Let's go for it."
It was a splendid afternoon for Liverpool's James Milner to celebrate becoming only the 13th player to make 500 top-flight appearances in the Premier League era.
"It's the perfect way to celebrate it," he said. "It wasn't our best performance of the season by any means but we were efficient, got the job done and this fella (Salah) is unbelievable... He can win you a game on his own."