Liverpool kept their fine form going with a wholly convincing 5-1 win at home to Hull City. They looked in control from the outset, and this was only increased after Ahmed Elmohamady was dismissed midway through the first half for handling the ball to prevent a goal. In truth they could easily have had more than five, but Jurgen Klopp and his men will certainly be satisfied with their day’s work. The only blemish on an otherwise excellent performance was the continued failure to keep a clean sheet – whilst immaterial in the context of the game, it is a slight worry that the back four are seemingly unable to go ninety minutes without shipping a goal.
It was immediately apparent that it was going to be a long afternoon for Hull. Liverpool were clearly in the mood: crisp, dangerous passes were exchanged when the hosts were on the ball, and after losing it there was an eager counter-press response. The Tigers initially combated the pressing nicely with a few quick pass combinations of their own, but the relentless pressure inevitably began to force some turnovers before long. Soon a pattern emerged whereby Hull were barely able to get a touch on the ball; when they did they were left with little option but to play it long looking for Hernandez, usually with no success. All of Liverpool’s possession came to fruition after 17 minutes when Coutinho beat a couple of men before slotting the ball into Adam Lallana, who calmly passed the ball into the corner of the net. The space for the pass was opened up by an intelligent run from Coutinho’s compatriot Roberto Firmino, who took two defenders with him when he peeled off to the left. As is Klopp’s way, Liverpool did not ease up after opening the scoring – the intensity was if anything increased, and it seemed a matter of time before the lead was doubled. Sure enough, with thirty minutes played the referee pointed to the spot following an Elmohamady handball on the line. To make matters worse for the visitors a red card was also shown. Milner coolly slotted away the penalty, leaving Hull with ten men and a two goal deficit.
Liverpool piled on the misery just six minutes later. Lallana beat two defenders with a trademark turn: he looks a different player this season, utilising his undoubted on-the-ball talents in a much more direct, effective manner than in the past. He then used the space to pick out Mane, who also swivelled before firing the ball past a hapless Marshall and into the bottom corner. Wijnaldum also had a good chance, and another Mane effort deflected on to the crossbar, but the half ended 3-0. Hull had neither the ability nor the numbers to threaten a rampant Liverpool in full flow, and at the interval it seemed very likely that the hosts might finally register a clean sheet. It was not to be, however: the old set pieces Achilles heel showed itself shortly after the break, as David Meyler scored from Hull’s first corner of the game. This trend of failing to secure a shut-out is getting quite wearisome, and must be preying on the minds of the players at this point – this could have a spiralling negative impact, as they will go into games with no confidence in their ability to keep the opposition from scoring. Far from wallowing in self-pity, however, Liverpool restored the three goal lead within moments. Staggeringly, just nine passes were made between the Hull goal and Liverpool’s fourth – Lallana’s was the final ball of the sequence, laying it into the path of Coutinho who scored a superb curler from outside the box.
The rest of the match played out in perhaps the most one-sided manner ever witnessed: Hull offered literally nothing whatsoever going forward, and simply sat back trying not to get completely humiliated. Even so, they were unable to prevent a fifth from going in – minutes after being introduced, Sturridge bamboozled his man in the box with some quick feet to win another penalty. Milner once again converted, albeit with a touch of fortune this time. Nobody could argue that a four goal margin was not fully deserved, however – indeed, six or seven might have been a more accurate reflection. This will probably not bother Liverpool too much: they scored more than enough to get the job done in what was a thoroughly professional performance.
The result extends the winning streak to three games, and leaves the team with an impressive 13 points from a tough opening six fixtures. Liverpool now lie fourth in the table; the position is of course all but irrelevant at this stage, but it always nice for the players and fans to see the team in the Champions League places. However, the top four may well not be the summit of this squad’s ambitions: in this sort of form, it is hard not to consider them genuine title contenders. It is important, however, that the players continue to take things game by game – next up is a trip to Swansea. Jurgen Klopp’s pre-match talk will surely be a simple one – “same again, please!”