Liverpool once again put the pressure back on Manchester City as they returned to the top of the Premier League with an emphatic win over Huddersfield at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are now two points clear of the reigning champions, who have a game in hand, with Naby Keita’s goal after 15 seconds setting the tone for a dominant display.
Winning possession high in Huddersfield territory, the Guinea midfielder swept a close-range effort into the bottom left corner from Mohamed Salah’s pass to record the Reds’ quickest ever goal in a Premier League match.
It also represented Liverpool’s 100th goal in all competitions this term, and they doubled their lead when Sadio Mane glanced Andrew Robertson’s superb cross into the bottom right corner.
Salah then lobbed Town goalkeeper Jonas Lossl on the stroke of half-time to deliver a third after running on to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ball forward.
While Huddersfield twice went close to scoring through Juninho Bacuna and Karlan Grant, it remained largely one-way traffic after the break.
Salah and Keita both went close to their second goals of the evening before Mane headed in his second from Jordan Henderson’s cross to briefly become the Premier League’s joint-top scorer, on 20 goals.
However his Egyptian team-mate Salah regained that honour, converting from another Robertson delivery in the closing stages to move on to 21 goals, sealing a fine team performance.
Liverpool have now amassed more points than Arsenal’s unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ team of 2003-04 and have 12 points more than the Manchester United Treble-winning team of 1998-99.
No team has ever reached this number of points (91) and not gone on to win the title.
Manchester City, though, can regain top spot if they win their game in hand at Burnley on Sunday (14:05 BST), after which both teams have two games left.
If there were fears this could turn into a nervy occasion, they were quickly dispelled by a lightning-fast start in which visiting midfielder Jon Gorenc Stankovic was robbed of possession for Keita’s opener.
Liverpool’s high press was hardly unexpected but it did the early damage before the usual suspects took over.
Andrew Robertson displayed the form that has seen him rewarded with a place in the PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year; driving forward from left-back at every opportunity.
His contribution to Mane’s first goal and Salah’s second saw him equal a Premier League record of 11 assists from a defender in a season.
Mane, who was also endorsed by his contemporaries and is a contender for the main PFA Player of the Year award on Sunday, showcased his ability to find space between defenders, directing two excellent headers past Jonas Lossl to record his 19th and 20th league goals of a prolific season.
That ensured Liverpool became the first club to have two players score 20 goals or more in a Premier League season since Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge accomplished the same feat in 2013-14.
Salah’s two-goal return also saw him become only the third Liverpool player to pass 20 or more Premier League goals in consecutive seasons for the club, placing him in the same company as Robbie Fowler (1994-95 and 1995-96) and Luis Suarez (2012-13 and 2013-14).
His overall tally of 69 goals in 100 games does, however, separate him from those former heroes and is the highest number of goals managed by any Liverpool player after a century of appearances.
Klopp will have also been satisfied with his team’s fluency in attack even without Roberto Firmino, who was nursing a thigh injury.
The Brazilian is expected to be fit for Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg at Barcelona, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who returned from injury to make his first appearance since April 2018, will also bolster his options.
Huddersfield surrender to gulf in quality
At the same stage last term, Huddersfield were still embroiled in a fight for Premier League survival – but this campaign has struck an entirely different tone.
David Wagner – the architect of that triumph and the Terriers’ first promotion to the top-flight since 1972 – left in January and his successor Jan Siewert has been unable to recalibrate their fortunes.
This thumping defeat leaves Town with just four points from the last 69 available and a compendium of unwanted records loom.
The 77-point difference between them and Liverpool represents the biggest ever gap between the top and bottom club since the Premier League was formed.
And this loss – their 28th of the season – moved them within one of the Premier League record for the most defeats, which is currently shared by Ipswich, Sunderland and Derby.
With two games to go against Manchester United and at Southampton, there is now the realistic prospect they could end up as the sole owners of that undesirable tag.
Their failings here were symptomatic of their season; albeit the quality of their opponents only exacerbated them.
Stankovic – a defender deployed in midfield – lacked the awareness to shift the ball away from Keita, giving the visitors an early mountain to climb.
And both of Mane’s headers were too easily dispatched against a side that has now conceded 74 goals in 36 games.
While endeavour was not absent – Huddersfield covered more ground than their opponents (111.97km to 110.34km) – the visitors’ failure to capitalise on promising situations made for a comfortable night for the hosts.
Man of the match – Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
‘We scored wonderful goals’ – what they said
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “We are happy with the points we have and now we are focused on the next game. We have a mindset that works and we try to create problems for each opponent by working hard.
“It’s obviously an outstanding group of players, who did well against a Huddersfield side who are much better than the result shows. They had proper counter-attacks so we needed to be patient and we scored wonderful goals.”
Huddersfield manager Jan Siewart: “I feel for the player who made the mistake and everyone felt sorry for him. I have to take care of my player because he is a fantastic character. He was outstanding against Wolves but today he made a mistake and we all have to back him.
“No-one expected us to be brave and we could easily have put on our helmets and sit on the back foot but we put them under pressure. This is how I want to continue with my work because I know it will deliver results.
“Jurgen Klopp has proved that at Liverpool where he came in and changed the system. We all knew they could punish us but I am proud of the way we created chances.”
Impregnable Anfield – the stats
Liverpool have accrued 91 points in the Premier League this season, their second-highest ever total in a single league season (converting to three for a win) in their history, behind only 98 points in 1978-79, which was a 42-game season.
Liverpool have won 10 consecutive matches in all competitions, their best winning run since May 2006 when they won 11 on the bounce.
Huddersfield have now lost 28 Premier League matches this season – they have never lost more league matches in a single campaign in their history (also 28 in 1987-88 in the second tier).
Liverpool are now unbeaten in 19 matches across all competitions (W14, D5), their longest such streak since a run of 20 without defeat between December 1995 and March 1996.
This victory means Liverpool will end Friday top of the Premier League – it is the 29th time that the lead has changed hands at the end of a day this season, the outright post-war top-flight record, overtaking 28 times in 2001-02.
Huddersfield have now failed to score in each of their last nine meetings with Liverpool in all competitions; this is Liverpool’s joint-second longest run of clean sheets against an opponent in their history, behind only a 10-match streak against West Brom in August 2010 (also nine v Everton in April 1976).
Liverpool have now earned 50 points at Anfield this season, their best ever tally at home in a Premier League season (previously 49 in 2013-14), with this the first top-flight season they have reached 50 points at home since 1987-88 (also 50).
No defender in Premier League history has assisted more goals in a single season in the competition than Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson (11), moving level with Leighton Baines in 2010-11 and Andy Hinchcliffe in 1994-95.
Liverpool travel to Barcelona for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on 1 May (20:00 BST) before resuming their Premier League duties on Saturday, 4 May at Newcastle (19:45 BST).
Huddersfield host Manchester United in their next Premier League game on Sunday, 5 May (14:00 BST).