Merseysiders consolidate their place in the top four by completing a Premier League double over struggling Southampton…
Liverpool deservedly recorded their first win at Southampton in four visits with a 2-0 victory on Sunday afternoon.
The Kop side made light of a disrupted build-up in which mechanical issues with their plane on Saturday had forced them to make the lengthy journey down to the South Coast on match day.
Jürgen Klopp‘s outfit, which, much to the ranker of the home support, featured five of the six former Saints players in their ranks at various points, were rarely troubled throughout an encounter in which their superior quality up front would prove to be the difference.
For the second match in succession the Reds struck early when a quick throw-out by Loris Karius facilitated a 6th minute Roberto Firmino goal, albeit heavily aided by a misjudgement from Wesley Hoedt.
The German did well to keep his team in front 10 minutes later when Pierre-Emile Højbjerg found space in the area but failed to beat the improving keeper.
The opportunity was part of a decent response by the hosts who looked bright enough in possession despite kicking-off in the relegation zone following results elsewhere over the weekend.
Although far from dull, the contest provided little in the way of tempo or prolonged action for a period as Firmino, who has now reached the 20-goal mark this term, ambitiously appealed for a penalty and Sadio Mané shot wide from distance.
Record Saints signing Guido Carrillo had a headed opportunity as the half hour mark approached but his effort went straight at Karius, while James Ward-Prowse saw his own header tipped over moments later.
Up the other end Mané poked wide under pressure from Cédric Soares and a couple of dangerous crosses from the lively Andrew Robertson went unrewarded.
Just as the game looked like it would remain 0-1 at half-time a wonderful one-two between Mohamed Salah and Firmino unlocked the Saints rearguard and the Egyptian coolly notched his 29th goal of a record-breaking debut season (22nd in the league).
Salah could have made the game safe shortly after the restart but he couldn’t keep a left-footed effort down after an acrobatic Mané attempt had been blocked.
Generally speaking however, the Merseysiders were somewhat sloppy, not least their captain for the afternoon Emre Can, in the early exchanges of the second half and a stretching Hoedt wasn’t far away from pegging them back.
Virgil Van Dijk, who was given an unsavoury reception on his first return to St Mary’s following last month’s acrimonious £75million transfer between the two clubs, and his fellow defenders remained largely untroubled though, particularly from open play, as the hosts looked devoid of ideas and confidence in the final third.
Liverpool weren’t offering much in attack either though as the hour mark came and went; speculative efforts from distance by Georginio Wijnaldum and Can were wildly off target.
A good run by Mané went close to delivering a third in the 70th minute but Firmino’s shot was well saved by Alex McCarthy and Salah could only find the side-netting with the follow-up.
Mauricio Pellegrino made some positive alterations in the closing stages but they only served to leave additional space for Liverpool on the counter as Mané wasted a couple of opportunities to put the result beyond doubt.
An expected late Southampton onslaught never materialised and substitute Adam Lallana went close to rubbing salt into his old club’s wounds in the 85th minute but he couldn’t quite get enough bend on an angled shot.
Ultimately two goals proved to be more than enough to secure the three points and heap extra pressure on former Reds defender and assistant manager Pellegrino.
Klopp, analysing the result and his team’s performance at a post-match press conference, was content with the showing without getting too carried away.
“We were ready for hard work,” remarked the former Borussia Dortmund chief. “Doing the right things in the right moment, reacting in a good way in the second half.
“There were a few things we didn’t do too well in the first half, but we scored fantastic goals – that’s how an away game should be. They were two great goals, to be honest, but we were not in a few situations active enough in our formation, it meant they could play the diagonal balls pretty easy from the centre-halves and full-backs.
“Then on the other side, our full-back, we left them alone in situations not only after crosses but before the crosses already, so we needed the goalkeeper – but no problem, that’s why he is there. He did fantastic in these moments. They had their chances in these situations, they had possession and played good football.
“Then, second half, we controlled the game, really. We were much more active again in these half-spaces and still created fantastic chances which we didn’t use, but after 2-0 it wasn’t a big problem.”
Victory moves Liverpool back up to third and, after their surprise defeat to Newcastle United earlier in the day, to within two points of second-placed Manchester United.
The Merseysiders return to European action in midweek with a trip to Porto for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday (19:45 GMT).
So that’s what both we and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below…
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