Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool had enjoyed the perfect afternoon at Bournemouth after cruising to a comfortable 3-0 win to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League to 11 points.
Klopp said a commanding victory was the ideal preparation for Tuesday’s Champions League visit to Salzburg, where a point will guarantee the European champions passage into the last 16 of the competition.
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In control of the game by halftime after goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, Mohamed Salah killed off any hopes Bournemouth had of fighting back with the third in the second half.
And from that point, Klopp’s eyes were trained on the trip to Austria, even if his players would have liked to have added to their goal tally.
“Yes, it was (perfect), 100 percent,” said the manager. “We scored wonderful goals, we had more chances and did really well and we were really uncomfortable to play against.
“From 3-0 on we controlled the game absolutely. The players didn’t like it too much, they wanted to be really loud in these moments but I didn’t want to see any unnecessary risk. It was maybe not the most exciting but necessary.” It was Liverpool’s 15th win from 16 Premier League matches and moved Klopp’s side 11 points clear, 24 hours before Leicester City face Aston Villa.
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And it came with the added bonus of a first clean sheet since September. “I forgot actually how it feels to be honest,” said Klopp. “It’s great. That was the most used word when I came in the dressing room, clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet.
“Obviously everybody was desperate for that and now we have it, so let’s have it more often. The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday. It feels good.” Klopp could draw satisfaction from the performance of Keita, who marked his first Premier League start of the season with his side’s second goal in the 44th minute, nine minutes after Oxlade-Chamberlain had volleyed Liverpool ahead.
Salah provided the assist to Keita, and the roles were reversed in the 54th minute.
The manager admitted Salah, who did not feature against Everton in midweek, now looks to be returning to his best form.
“Naby was great, Mo, absolutely strong,” said Klopp. “It’s long ago that he got that knock but you carry things like this with you when you have game after game after game. He looks now 100 percent.” The only downside of the afternoon was an injury to Dejan Lovren but Klopp is confident the centre-back is suffering from only a minor problem and expects him to press for a return on Tuesday.
Both Klopp and Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe were in agreement that the game turned on the 34th minute injury to Cherries defender Nathan Ake, who was forced off with a hamstring injury.
Oxlade-Chamberlain scored immediately afterwards and Bournemouth, who have now lost five successive games, were unable to find a response.
It did not help Bournemouth’s cause that England striker Callum Wilson also joined the club’s lengthy injury list in the second half.
Howe said: “We have to find a way to overcome this. It’s probably the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced since we came into the Premier League.”