Sadio Mane scored two goals inside two first-half minutes as Liverpool ended its winless start to 2017 by beating title-chasing Tottenham 2-0 in a ruthless display in the English Premier League on Saturday.
Spurs were looking to trim the gap to first-place Chelsea to six points, but were outplayed at Anfield in the face of Liverpool's relentless pressing game.
Mane raced through the middle to lift home a well-taken finish in the 16th minute and was celebrating again in the 18th after driving a rising shot into the net from close range. They were his first goals since returning from the African Cup of Nations at the end of January.
Liverpool hadn't won any of its first five league games this year, virtually ending its hopes of capturing a first title since 1990, but this was an encouraging return to form against a rival for a top-four finish.
The Reds climbed to fourth ahead of Manchester City, which plays Bournemouth on Monday.
Tottenham started the weekend as Chelsea's nearest challenger. Yet this was a demoralizing loss â€” only its third all season in the league â€” and it could have been much worse, with Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet barely troubled.
Liverpool's slump in form coincided with Mane's departure to the African Cup with Senegal, with the team missing his energy and exuberance out wide.
His return could be the catalyst for a renewed tilt at the Champions League qualification places for Liverpool. Spurs simply couldn't live with him here.
Mane's first goal came courtesy of a pinpoint through-ball by Georginio Wijnaldum, after Liverpool forced a turnover and then created space in central midfield with a neat one-two between Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino. Mane outpaced Ben Davies to latch onto the pass and showed composure to lift his finish beyond Hugo Lloris from inside the area.
Home celebrations had barely died down when Tottenham's midfield was again picked off, Mane led a counterattack, Firmino had a shot saved, and Mane slammed the rebound high into the net from eight meters.
Mane was in relentless mood, shooting just wide and then forcing a superb low save out of Lloris.
Spurs were being suffocated and the halftime whistle came as a relief, as Liverpool should have been further ahead especially when Philippe Coutinho had a clear sight on goal and shot at Lloris.
Liverpool maintained its standard â€” and breathtaking levels of pressing â€” in the second half as tempers frayed, with even striker Harry Kane getting booked for an ugly lunge on Nathaniel Clyne.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp lived and breathed every action in his inimitable style in the technical area and he warmly embraced each of his players after the final whistle.
Source: Associated Press