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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 23, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (C) celebrates with team-mates Luis Díaz (L) and Sadio Mané (R) after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Man City “can smell Liverpool’s breath” as “emphatic” Reds thump Leeds

The watching media were left running out of superlatives after their 6-0 destruction of Leeds, as the title race explodes into life.

The Reds were a joy to watch at Anfield on Wednesday night, tearing their opponents to shreds from minute one.

Mohamed Salah fired home two penalties before half-time and Joel Matip scored in between, in what was a relentless first-half showing.

Things were more low-key after the break until late on, when Sadio Mane netted twice and Virgil van Dijk completed the scoring in stoppage time.

Here’s a look at how the media reacted to Liverpool’s victory.

 

There is a real feeling of a genuine title charge now…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 23, 2022: Liverpool's Joel Matip (L) celebrates with team-mate Virgil van Dijk (R) after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Telegraph‘s Chris Bascombe could feel the title energy inside Anfield:

Manchester City can smell Liverpool’s breath now. Another emphatic home victory, this time by outclassing Leeds United, enabled Jurgen Klopp’s side to reduce the gap to the leaders to three points.

“As well as their six goals, this date may be highlighted in a few months as the first time this season when a tentative claim from a section of the Anfield crowd sang about ‘winning the league’.

“It was not quite the statement of previous years, and the chant fizzled out rather tamely a few seconds after Sadio Mane added Liverpool’s fourth goal on 80 minutes. Perhaps it is a sign the belief is not yet completely there – certainly not to the same extent as two years ago – that City will flounder.

“But you could sense there will be weekly parties in this stadium the longer the race lasts. This was another statement by Klopp’s side about how much they are relishing the chase. Liverpool are playing their most relaxed, swaggering football for two years. At full-time, his usual three celebratory fist pumps to the Kop were extended to seven.”

Andy Hunter of the Guardian also focused on Man City feeling the pressure:

“Liverpool blew away Leeds to such an extent at Anfield that Pep Guardiola may have been able to feel their breath on the back of his neck in Manchester. City’s comfortable 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League is a distant memory and Jürgen Klopp’s ‘pain in the ass’ are closing in.

“Klopp celebrated an emphatic rout of Leeds with six punches in front of the Kop: one for each goal that his rampant team swept past the ridiculously exposed Illan Meslier.

Mohamed Salah scored two penalties, Sadio Mane struck twice, Joel Matip converted a fine goal and Virgil van Dijk joined his defensive partner on the scoresheet in stoppage time. Liverpool sent out a statement of intent with their game in hand on the Premier League leaders.”

The Mirror‘s Samuel Meade couldn’t help but look ahead to the City-Liverpool clash in April:

“Liverpool were expected to take three points from their home game in hand with Leeds, which would’ve cut the gap further, and, as per the script, they delivered.

“It means the gap at the summit is just three points and Manchester City will now be looking over their shoulder a little more than they’d like.

“Liverpool’s three points at Anfield means they’ve won their last six on the bounce as they mount a title charge. We might not get the same points tallies we saw in 2018/19, but we could still get the same drama.

“The Reds have to visit the Etihad in April and the countdown to that fixture will now firmly be on.”

Paul Gorst of the Liverpool Echo lauded the manner in which the Reds have clawed back the deficit:

“For the first time in three years, the Premier League will see a title race in March.

“And after going a dozen points clear with a 4-0 win over Norwich as recently as February 12, Pep Guardiola may be forgiven for paraphrasing Ron Burgundy on Wednesday night because boy has this escalated quickly.

“From 12 behind to just three in less than a fortnight; Liverpool ‘s renewed push for a 20th league title is about to take on an extra gear as the neutrals find something to tune in for between now and the end of May.”

 

It was a night where numerous individuals shone…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 23, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scores the first goal from a penalty kick during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Meade had to heap praise on the ever-brilliant Salah:

“There has been absolutely no AFCON hangover for the Egyptian sensation. In the early part of the season especially, Salah operated at arguably the highest level of his career.

“The Liverpool star was the league’s top scorer in each of his first two seasons and will take some spotting this term.

“He’s now scored 19 with his strikes on Wednesday evening coming from the spot.

“Salah’s record from 12 yards is hugely impressive and the confidence with which he put away his two goals tells you all you need to know.”

This Is Anfield revelled in Matip’s overdue goal:

“One of them was always going to result in a brilliant goal, wasn’t it?!

“After what feels like 500 solo runs from our wind-up merchant at centre-back, he of the long-limbed tantrums and the overly-firm slaps of the head, Joel Matip finally found the back of the net at the end of his latest one.

“This time it was a swooping surge from 40 yards out or more, a 20-metre one-two with Salah and a finish as well-taken and composed as any you’ll see from the front three, first-time and curled near post above the keeper’s reach.

“The acclaim and applause he received from team-mates and fans alike spoke volumes not just of his popularity, but of his cult-status in this particular trait too.”

 

It’s now all about Sunday’s League Cup final…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 23, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates with team-mate Virgil van Dijk (R) after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Melissa Reddy of the Independent doesn’t think Liverpool could be in better spirits ahead of the Chelsea clash:

“And then, after six unanswered goals, it was down to three points. Pep Guardiola’s description that Liverpool are a ‘pain in the ass’ required the addition of the word “almighty” on Wednesday night as they bulldozed Leeds and took a mega bite into Manchester City’s lead at the Premier League summit.

“There was zero sign of anxiety or elevated pressure from those representing the home side on the pitch in a game that took on much greater significance after Harry Kane’s towering 95th-minute header at the Etihad injected life into the title race.

[…]

“Liverpool head into the League Cup final feeling on top of the world, while Leeds look at the landscape at the bottom of the table with trepidation.”

TIA eyed up a first trophy of the season this weekend:

“Next up for the Reds: an actual final. But you can kind of see the point of the cliche too with the upcoming run: two knock-out games and another big league fixture – there’s no room for slip-ups and any defeat does feel like losing a shot at silverware.

“The squad is looking great right now – lots of competition in key areas, plenty of stars in top form and so, so much to aim for over the next three months.

“Let’s start the trophy-winning again at the weekend and see just how memorable this season could become.”

Finally, Paul Joyce of the Times was of a similar mindset:

“For Liverpool attention can turn to the Carabao Cup final, but the importance of this game, and in capitalising on City’s rare slip-up at the weekend, meant that Klopp faithfully adhered to his mantra that the next match is always the most important.

“Possibly as many as eight of the starting line-up will keep their places at Wembley, which resulted in some moments of anxiety, most notably when Fabinho was sent somersaulting through the air by Junior Firpo’s wild lunge by the touchline.

[…]

Virgil van Dijk completed the rout with a header from Robertson’s corner in stoppage time to leave The Kop singing of ‘Wem-ber-lee’ and hoping that the first leg of a Quadruple will come on Sunday.”

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