SAINTS’ four-match winning run away from home came to an end at champions-elect Liverpool, despite an excellent first-half performance at Anfield.

After a goalless first half during which Saints could easily have taken the lead, Liverpool went ahead in the 47th minute through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Further goals from Jordan Henderson and a Mo Salah brace resulted in a scoreline that flattered Liverpool.

Danny Ings showed the home side what he could have given them before his injuries with an outstanding all-round performance against his former club.

All it lacked was a goal but he was unfortunate not to get a penalty shortly before ex-Saint Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring.

Saints made two changes to the team that drew at Crystal Palace, with Oriol Romeu in for the departed Cedric and Moussa Djenepo replacing the injured Stuart Armstrong.

They impressed in the first half, although early decisions did not go their way.

Andy Robertson was fortunate not to be penalised for a pass-back inside the area and Djenepo should have been given a free-kick by referee Kevin Friend.

But Saints went on to create plenty of chances.

Liverpool were not at their best in the first half but Ings was as lively as ever in his first game back at Anfield since leaving 18 months ago.

He nearly created an excellent early chance when he burst on to a first-time through ball, but his cut-back was behind the onrushing Hojbjerg.

McCarthy made some crucial first-half saves, starting with a low dive to keep out Wijnaldum’s effort from inside the area following Fabinho’s well-weighted pass.

Then Djenepo's 25-yarder stung the palms of Allison from Long’s chested pass. Allison took no chances, deflecting the ball behind for a corner rather than attempt to catch it.

A flurry of McCarthy saves ensured the game stayed goalless. He did well to turn behind Oxlade-Chamberlain’s deflected 20-yarder, which was heading for the top corner after a ricochet off Djenepo.

The Saints goalkeeper also produced a crucial double save to deny Virgil van Dijk and Firmino as Liverpool pinged the ball to feet with typical dexterity. Stephens then stumbled into Firmino on the goal-line as a cross came over from the right, but the appeals for a spot-kick were turned down by the referee and then VAR.

On a surface moistened by sprinklers, Saints also worked the ball with alacrity.

One slick move ended with a Redmond shot deflecting the wrong side of the left post.

Ings wriggled himself through a few red shirts in the penalty area only for Van Dijk to block his left-footer as the Kop held its breath.

Then Long put his laces through the ball from 20 yards but straight at Allison.

And after dispossessing Oxlade-Chamberlain, Hojbjerg burst to the edge of the area only for his shot to lack the pace needed to beat the diving Allison.

Redmond fired over when Bertrand’s cross was headed back by Ings, who was denied by Allison from point-blank range at the end of the first half, after seizing the ball off a lackadaisical Joe Gomez.

Ings began the second half by running 25 yards with the ball and into the penalty area. He had a good shout for a spot-kick after being tripped by Fabinho, but it was not checked by VAR.

Within a minute, before the ball had gone out of play, Saints were behind. Firmino flicked the ball to Oxlade-Chamberlain, who cut in from the left and, with room to shoot, drove in from 20 yards past the stationary and unsighted McCarthy.

Still Ings kept plugging away, winning a corner with a deflected effort of Robertson.

But, cometh the hour, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson lashed in the second after Firmino turned inside and crossed from the left, having been sent clear by a sensational pass from Alexander-Arnold.

A double change saw Ings and Long replaced by Saints' back-up strikers. Ings was given a rapturous send-off as the Kop sang his name.

But it was soon 3-0 as Salah dinked the ball over McCarthy after racing on to a cross from the right.

A top save from McCarthy kept out Firmino from Naby Keita’s pass, but in the final minute Salah put more gloss on the scoreline from close range.

LIVERPOOL: Becker, Alexander-Arnold Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum (Minamino 81), Henderson (Lallana 88), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Keita 72), Firmino, Salah.

SAINTS: McCarthy, Ward-Prowse, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand; Romeu, Hojbjerg; Djenepo (Boufal 82), Redmond, Long (Obafemi 70), Ings (Adams 70).

Booked: Ward-Prowse