Mohamed Salah got Liverpool up and running as they comfortably dispatched West Ham in their first Premier League fixture of the season.
The Egyptian tapped in a 19th-minute opener from Andy Robertson’s cross on his return to action for the Reds at Anfield.
It took the visitors almost half an hour to fashion a chance of note as they struggled to stem the Liverpool attacking tide.
Liverpool’s new goalkeeper Alisson, signed for £66.8m from Roma in the summer, comfortably saved a Fabian Balbuena header, one of only two efforts on target for the Hammers.
As the pressure built, the hosts doubled their advantage when Sadio Mane turned in James Milner’s cut-back after being left unmarked six yards from goal.
The Senegalese forward added his second and Liverpool’s third early in the second period. Mane appeared marginally offside as he collected Roberto Firmino’s pass, but the flag stayed down and he drilled his effort beyond new West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
New signing Naby Keita, a £50m acquisition from RB Leipzig, impressed in midfield for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
He contributed to Liverpool’s first goal and delivered the kind of driving performance that Steven Gerrard once produced wearing the number eight shirt.
Substitute Daniel Sturridge rounded off the scoring with his first touch, 24 seconds after coming on, to ensure Liverpool recorded their 500th victory in the Premier League era.
It also maintained their fine Anfield record against West Ham, who have now won just one of their past 46 top-flight visits.
Liverpool underline title credentials
Liverpool finished fourth last season, 25 points behind Premier League champions Manchester City.
However, the nature of their emphatic Champions League quarter-final victory over Pep Guardiola’s side in April, coupled with a league win over City, suggested they could challenge them this term.
Liverpool’s attacking prowess has not been in question in recent times.
The front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane contributed 91 of the club’s 135 goals last season and they were on song again as Liverpool put four goals past West Ham for the fourth time in a row.
Salah’s instinct to find the right position allowed him an easy first, while Mane’s intelligence brought him off the wing into central positions for both his goals.
Klopp compared his team to “Rocky Balboa” in the build-up to this game but the depth of his substitutes’ bench and this result may soon see them shed that tag.
The German introduced new signing Xherdan Shaqiri, England midfielder Jordan Henderson and Sturridge from the bench but still had midfielders Adam Lallana and Fabinho in reserve.
Tough opening assignment for Hammers
If last term turned into a tale of Premier League survival, the arrival of new manager Manuel Pellegrini and 10 summer signings was supposed to bring renewed optimism to West Ham supporters.
The Chilean has promised a return to attacking football, after some supporters perceived the style of play in recent seasons as a departure from the ‘West Ham way’.
An opening fixture at Anfield was hardly a barometer to judge early progress though.
The Hammers have lost more top-flight games against Liverpool than any other side and despite spending around £100m on new recruits this was always going to be a difficult assignment.
Pellegrini utilised five of his new faces – Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Balbuena, Felipe Anderson and Jack Wilshere – from the start on Merseyside.
Wilshere was starved of possession in attack, failing to touch the ball in the Liverpool penalty area, and Anderson was withdrawn in the second half after failing to make an impact.
Man of the match – Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
What they said – ‘better than I could have expected’
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp told Match of the Day: “We played as good as possible today and we extended a really good pre-season into the Premier league.
“It was good, not surprisingly good, but it was better than I could have expected because I saw a lot of pre-season hope on the pitch.
“The performance of all the boys and the midfield of James [Milner] and Georginio Wijnaldum was outstanding.
“It’s only the middle of August and then in September the games will come. The future of football will be rotation. We need to be ready and have that quality.
“I told the boys one or two could be disappointed but that will change, if they make the best of their time.”
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini told Match of the Day: “We knew before the game that our start was very difficult. In our first few games we need to play some of the big teams.
“It’s difficult to play when you concede four goals. We started the second half and the referee didn’t see a clear offside.
“We need to improve in attack and continue working. I am sure next Saturday we will see a team that is trying to win.”
Match stats – Mane emulates Barnes
- Liverpool are only the second side in Premier League history to score four or more goals in four consecutive games against a single opponent, after Tottenham v Stoke.
- West Ham have lost their season opener 12 times in the Premier League, more than any other side.
- West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini has lost more Premier League games against Liverpool than he has against any other opponent in the competition (P7 W2 D0 L5).
- Mohamed Salah has been directly involved in five goals in his three Premier League meetings with West Ham for Liverpool (four goals, one assist).
- Salah has scored 20 goals in his 20 Premier League games at Anfield for Liverpool.
- Only Andrew Cole and Alan Shearer (both 41 goals), have scored more in their first 50 Premier League appearances than Salah (35).
- Sadio Mane is the first Liverpool player to score in three consecutive opening top-flight fixtures since John Barnes between 1989-90 and 1991-92
Liverpool go to Crystal Palace on Monday, 20 August (20:00 BST) while West Ham host Bournemouth on Saturday (15:00 BST).