Mohamed Salah came off the bench to score twice as Liverpool recorded a 3-0 victory over Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium this evening, taking them up to fifth in the Premier League table as a result.
Sadio Mane broke the deadlock for the visitors in the first half, but it took until the final 15 minutes for Liverpool to put the game to bed as Salah took his tally for the season up to 17 in all competitions.
The win lifts the Reds above Tottenham Hotspur into fifth place after their defeat to Leicester City on Tuesday night, while the Merseysiders have also kept a clean sheet away from home for the first time this season.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp continued his rotation policy for the trip to the Potteries, with Salah among those to drop to the bench alongside the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and captain Jordan Henderson.
Roberto Firmino and Mane did come back into the side, though, and the latter broke the deadlock with the first meaningful chance of the game after 17 minutes.
Stoke’s defence switched off when appealing that the ball had crossed the line before Joe Gomez could cut it back into the middle for Dominic Solanke, who took advantage of the confusion to squeeze a cute ball through for Mane. The Senegal international took it in his stride before dinking his finish over Lee Grant from close range for his first goal in six games for Liverpool, ending his longest league drought for the Reds.
Clear chances continued to be at a premium until the latter stages of the half, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s tame snapshot which was collected by Grant at the second attempt all either side could muster after the goal.
Liverpool should have doubled their advantage with six minutes remaining until the break, though, as Firmino flicked the ball into the path of Solanke, who saw his low strike well saved by Grant with only the keeper to beat.
The visitors could have been down to 10 men just seconds later when Simon Mignolet hacked down Mame Biram Diouf with a wild challenge just outside the area to deny a clear goalscoring opportunity, but referee Martin Atkinson opted for leniency and deemed that a yellow card would suffice.
Stoke’s sense of injustice was almost compounded shortly afterwards when Mane beat the offside trap to race clean through on goal, but with only the keeper to beat he fired his effort against the outside of the post.
The half-time whistle sounded to a cacophony of boos, and that continued at the start of the second half from the Stoke fans who felt that key decisions had gone against their team.
The jeers almost turned to cheers within two minutes of the restart when Stoke had their first meaningful shot of the contest, but Joe Allen saw his strike deflected narrowly wide after Liverpool had failed to clear their lines.
It wasn’t until the 69th minute that either side had another clear sight of goal, and again it fell for Allen as he blazed over from a good position after being set up by fellow Liverpool alumnus Peter Crouch.
Klopp turned to Salah off the bench in search of some breathing space, and it took only 10 minutes for the winger to continue his remarkable goalscoring form in some style, lashing an unstoppable first-time volley past Grant after being picked out by Mane in the middle.
The Egypt international then doubled his personal tally just six minutes later to make it an unparalleled 12 Premier League goals for the season, forcing a mistake from Erik Pieters before confidently stroking his finish beyond Grant.
Salah gave up the chance of a hat-trick with two minutes of normal time remaining when Liverpool won a free kick in a good position, instead allowing Georginio Wijnaldum to drive a powerful effort towards goal which needed to be tipped over the top.
Stoke should have scored a consolation in stoppage time after a rare save from Mignolet saw the ball fall at the feet of Diouf, but his first effort crashed against the woodwork before blazing the rebound over from six yards in front of an open goal, although the linesman’s flag did spare his blushes with the latter sitter.
Even so, it was indicative of an evening where not much went Stoke’s way as they made it three home league games without a win for the first time since September 2016, dropping down to 16th in the process with only three points separating them from the relegation zone.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have won back-to-back Premier League away games for the first time this season to extend their unbeaten run to seven matches, although they remain two points adrift of the Champions League places.