LONDON • Liverpool had Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson back in their starting line-up against Crystal Palace and they were no longer missing a beat. But a piece of the Anfield puzzle was still missing in their 4-0 victory on Wednesday - the fans.
So scintillating was the performance that it deserved an audience. So dominant were the hosts that Palace did not touch the ball in their 18-yard box.
The Eagles did not register a shot on target either.
In contrast, Jurgen Klopp's men registered seven on target and 21 overall.
Goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Salah, Fabinho and Sadio Mane, each special in different ways, earned Liverpool the win over a side that kept four consecutive clean sheets prior to this fixture.
"Imagine if this stadium would have been full today and all the people could have experienced it live," said Klopp, whose side have 86 points after 31 games and would be crowned champions this morning (Singapore time) if Manchester City failed to win at Chelsea.
"I don't think the game could have been better because my boys played like everybody was in the stadium. The atmosphere on the pitch was incredible."
Man-of-the-match Fabinho provided more evidence of the importance of every player in the Liverpool squad.
While the attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah received much recognition for their efforts in attack, the Brazilian holding midfielder proved his influence.
He controlled the middle of the park while playing the roles of creator and finisher.
He showed his vision with his ball over the top for Salah, who tucked home Liverpool's 100th goal of the season in all competitions.
And his piledriver set the seal on a 23rd straight league win at Anfield as he drilled home from 30 metres.
Crystal Palace did not have a single touch in Liverpool's box - the first side to fail to get into their opposition's penalty area since 2008-09.
"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. I like it so much. Wonderful result and a wonderful game," Klopp said after the first game at Anfield since the Covid-19 stoppage.
"The way they played, the passion we showed was so exceptional, there were moments that I couldn't believe it."
The Reds collectively completed 789 passes, while enjoying 73 per cent of the ball.
Defenders Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez completed 244 passes between them - nine more than the entire Palace team, including substitutes.
Palace manager Roy Hodgson told Sky Sports: "We didn't need to make any excuses really, but it's a Liverpool team in incredible form.
"They were so aggressive, so good in winning the ball back, we had no opportunities to put our foot on the ball and ask them some questions."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE