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LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Mohamed Salah scored four goals and set up another in Liverpool's 5-0 victory over Watford in the Premier League on Saturday, cementing his status as the most prolific forward in Europe's leading competitions.
The Egypt international's first hat trick for Liverpool took his tally to 36 in his first season at the club, including 28 in the league.
Not far behind is Roberto Firmino, who marked the best scoring season of his career with his 23rd in all competitions against a Watford side which presented little challenge. It was an exquisite backheel from Salah's cross.
The blizzard of goals in the snow marked a swift recovery from last weekend's defeat at Manchester United. With third-place Tottenham playing in the FA Cup quarterfinals on Saturday — beating Swansea 3-0 — Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool moved into third place.
Salah's opener after four minutes was reminiscent of a Lionel Messi move.
Salah exchanged passes with Sadio Mane before chasing down the ball in the penalty area and setting off on one of those driving, jinking runs which inevitably leaves defenders on their behinds.
Miguel Britos was the unfortunate victim on this occasion, getting a worm's eye view as Salah fired an angled shot past Orestis Karnezis to become the third Liverpool player to score at least 25 Premier League goals in a single season after Luis Suarez (2013-14) and Robbie Fowler (1995-96 and 1994-95).
It was a goal so good it required a second look and many of Liverpool's substitutes left their seats on the bench to view it on a pitchside monitor.
If that was good the goal which completed his hat-trick was even better and similarly Messi-esque.
Mane cut in from the right to feed the ball in and, despite being surrounded by defenders and falling over, Salah somehow managed to conjure a low shot that went inside the far post.
The middle goal of his treble two minutes before half-time was less individual and more team-orientated as Andrew Robertson exchanged passes with Mane before sliding in a cross which Salah could not fail to convert.
Even at that stage it appeared the game was beyond the visitors, but Firmino made sure five minutes into the second half when he backheeled Salah's near-post cross through his legs and inside the far post, eclipsing his previous career best of 22 for Hoffenheim in 2013-14.
Roberto Pereyra's inswinging free kick on to the top of the crossbar was Watford's only moment of respite as the red tide continued to crash forward and with it, inevitably, came more Salah goals.
After completing his hat trick with some penalty area trickery the Egyptian rifled home substitute Danny Ings' rebounded shot to become the first Liverpool player since Suarez against Norwich in December 2013 to net four times in a single game.
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