Southampton faced the unenviable task of having a must-win game against Liverpool following the results across the weekend. Huddersfield, Swansea and Newcastle were all able to pick up very important wins as they moved away from the relegation zone which consigned the Saints to the bottom three.
Liverpool on the other hands were looking to capitalise on Manchester United’s shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of Newcastle and they set the tone early at St. Marys’ Stadium. Mohamed Salah was able to profit from some poor defending to play in Roberto Firmino who tucked home, and the favour was then returned as the two combined with Salah profiting just before half-time.
The home fans would have hoped to have seen their team come out with a renewed sense of purpose as they trailed by two goals, but they were instead forced to watch an insipid performance from their team as Liverpool went into cruise control. In truth, very little happened in the second-half as the Reds walked to another win.
Southampton are in deep trouble now as they currently sit in 18th-place, while Liverpool have moved back into third.
Liverpool hit Southampton early
What a start it was for Liverpool as they made sure the beginning of the game was a nightmare one for their hosts. Just like they did against Tottenham in their scintillating 2-2 draw, the Reds were able to punish some awful defending to profit early in the match.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain knocked a pass forward that was more in hope rather than expectation, but Wesley Hoedt, who saw the ball all the way, could not sort his feet out, and it allowed the pass to sneak through him. Mohamed Salah, who has been in such superb goalscoring form this season, turned provider as he kept his cool to pick out a perfect pass to Roberto Firmino who was able to slot the ball into the back of the net.
As well taken as the goal was, it was entirely preventable. Southampton were once again the architects of their own downfall as their defensive frailties came back to haunt them as Liverpool took under 10 touches from goalkeeper to Firmino’s shot to open the scoring. With the hosts struggling so much in front of goal this year, the last thing they wanted to do was concede early to a morale-sapping goal, but that is exactly what they did, and it gave them a mountain to climb.
Liverpool so often go for the jugular when they are able to go a goal up but this was not the case on Sunday as they saw their hosts fightback in the match.
Oriol Romeu was the architect of the Saints’ first real chance as he played a perfectly weighted ball in behind Liverpool’s defence. Andrew Robertson was caught under the flight of the pass and this allowed Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to take a lovely touch, but his measured effort was straight at Loris Karius who spread himself to save well.
This heralded a period of play in which Liverpool were far too passive. Jurgen Klopp’s men stood off their opponents giving them too much time to get their heads up and to pick a pass. Dusan Tadic was causing problems on the flank but his crosses did not see any real changes made but, on the opposite wing, James Ward-Prowse was able to fire in a delightful ball onto the head of new signing Guido Carrillo, but his header was straight at Karius.
Tadic was clearly taking notes from Ward-Prowse as moments later he delivered a fine cross that Ward-Prowse was on the end of at the back post, but he chose not to head the ball into the ground which gave Karius a chance to make a good fingertip save.
While Southampton did not manage to score in the 25 minutes following the goal, there were clearly positive signs for the Saints as they went in search of a much-needed equaliser.
Salah scores yet again
While Liverpool’s first goal was one of capitalising on poor defending, their second was a display of just how slick the Reds can be when their attacking players are able to get onto the ball.
Joel Matip was given too much time in midfield allowing him to fire in a pass into the feet of Salah who played an accurate ball into Roberto Firmino and, as the Egyptian ran on, the Brazilian was able to play in a gorgeous back-heel that took the entire defence out of the game as the ball rolled to the feet of Salah who slotted home.
Perhaps Southampton’s defence were guilty of giving their opponents too much time and space, but it is impossible to account for an assist of that nature from Firmino, and Salah is ruthless in front of goal when given a chance. The forward has now moved onto 22 goals in the Premier League this season, and 29 in all competitions.
Salah is proving to be the signing of the season as his goals, influence and general play have given something Liverpool have lacked for some time, and despite the fact he is not an out-and-out striker, he is scoring goals like one.
Liverpool coast in the second-half
The home supporters would have been desperate to see their players come out of the blocks as quickly as possible as they needed to take something from the game as their position in the league becomes progressively more perilous. However, they were not treated to any kind of show by their side.
Liverpool were able to coast throughout the second-half as Loris Karius remained largely untested. For the Reds though, they saw a number of good chances spurned which may worry Klopp slightly. First, Firmino’s shot was well saved by Alex McCarthy as Salah dragged the rebound wide, Sadio Mane then hammered a shot wide as he missed the chance to ensure that all three of Liverpool’s forwards were on the scoresheet, before Adam Lallana then curled wide after Salah’s incisive pass.
Southampton tried to get back into the game with a number of attacking substitutes, but they were ultimately consigned to their 11th defeat of the season. The Saints are now on 26 points meaning they are one short of Huddersfield and safety as the pressure continues to mount on the side.
Liverpool on the other hand have cut the gap between themselves and Manchester United to just two points as they continue their rise up the table. Jurgen Klopp will be delighted with his side keeping a clean-sheet and looking so comfortable throughout the match, while Virgil van Dijk’s return to his former club was a happy one. Southampton by contrast are sinking into a desperate situation as they barely put up a fight on Sunday.
Southampton: McCarthy 5 – Cedric 5, Stephens 5, Hoedt 5, Bertrand 5 – Romeu 6 (Davis 5), Lemina 4 (Boufal 5) – Tadic 5, Hojbjerg 5, Ward-Prowse 5 (Long 5) – Carrillo 6.
Unused subs: Forster, Yoshida, Gabbiadini, Redmond.
Liverpool: Karius 6 – Alexander-Arnold 7, Matip 6, van Dijk 7, Robertson 6 – Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 (Milner 6), Can 6, Wijnaldum 6 – Salah 8 (Lovren 5), Firmino 8 (Lallana 6), Mane 6.
Unused subs: Mignolet, Moreno, Ings, Solanke.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
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