NPL Sports, 31st Jan: Liverpool got back on track with a clinical 3-0 win at Huddersfield thanks to goals from Emre Can, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah on Tuesday.
The Reds had stuttered in their past two matches with a Premier League defeat by lowly Swansea and an FA Cup exit at the hands of West Brom.
And despite not being at their sparkling best at the John Smith’s Stadium they still possessed too much quality for the Terriers as they completed a ruthless victory.
It helped give Liverpool a five-point cushion on fifth-placed Tottenham, who face Manchester United on Wednesday, in the race to finish in the Premier League’s top four.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp left club-record signing Virgil van Dijk on the bench as he elected to pair Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip at centre-back.
Jordan Henderson returned to the side following a hamstring injury to start a Premier League game for the first time since December.
Huddersfield made four changes from their last league match against Stoke as manager David Wagner opted for a 5-3-2 system for the first time this season.
This was the first meeting between the sides in Yorkshire since Liverpool won 1-0 at Leeds Road in February 1972 and it was the visitors who began with the greater assurance.
Liverpool dominated possession early on, although midfielders Jonathan Hogg and Aaron Mooy snapped at the heels of Klopp’s men.
And the home side almost grabbed the lead against the run of play when Chris Lowe’s cross found Laurent Depoitre on the edge of the box, but the Belgian striker failed to generate enough power with his effort and Loris Karius made a diving save.
However, Liverpool made Huddersfield pay as they went ahead in the 26th minute thanks to Can’s deflected goal from the corner of the box.
Andrew Robertson’s high cross was headed clear by Christopher Schindler and Can seized upon the ball to strike a low shot which glanced off Philip Billing before it nestled into the corner of the net.
Can is out of contract in the summer and Italian side Juventus have been strongly linked with a move for the German midfielder.
But to Can’s credit there has been little in his performances in January to suggest his focus is on anything else but the task in hand.
THuddersfield were then presented with a free-kick in a dangerous position, and the travelling fans behind the goal breathed a sigh of relief when Lowe’s curling effort flashed just past the post.
On the stroke of half-time Liverpool tightened their grip on the game as Firmino added a second, with Huddersfield’s Jonas Lossl guilty of a basic goalkeeping error.
Neat Liverpool interplay saw Firmino pick up the ball on the by-line and the Brazilian fired the ball between the smallest of gaps left by Lossl at his near post from a narrow angle.
Liverpool twice threatened immediately after the interval with Lossl keeping out Sadio Mane’s header and James Milner’s long-range effort.
Huddersfield’s fans vociferously appealed for a penalty when substitute Colin Quaner went to ground but referee Kevin Friend waved away the appeals.
Indeed, it was the visitors who were awarded a spot-kick with 12 minutes left when Billing used his arms on Can inside the area and Salah confidently sent Lossl the wrong way with an emphatic conversion.