Southampton: McCarthy; Cedric, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand, Romeu, Hojbjerg; Lemina, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Carrillo.
Liverpool: Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Mané, Firmino.
Liverpool coasted to a routine win at Saint Mary’s courtesy of two top-class goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Starting with three former Southampton players in the eleven, Klopp’s side got off to the perfect start just six minutes in when Firmino slotted the ball calmly into the right-hand corner. Karius was the man to start the move after some slick and quick-distribution from the back allowed Alexander-Arnold to surge down the line. As always, Salah had a key part to play in the build-up, brilliantly sliding the ball across to Firmino for his 20th goal of the season (in all competitions).
Producing a top-class performance at the tip of Liverpool’s attack, Firmino’s goal put to bed the idea that Klopp’s side are in need of a 20/30 goal a season striker, marking only the third time in the last 16 seasons that the club have had two players on 20 goals or more in a campaign in all competitions.
After the goal, The Reds took their foot off the gas with the home side growing into the game. Chamberlain, Wijnaldum and Can struggled to retain possession and calm the hostile atmosphere, with Karius called into action to ensure Liverpool retained the lead. Coming off his line quickly, the ‘keeper was on hand to deny Hojberg from close range. That was swiftly followed by a brilliant save to thwart Ward-Prowse’s header at the far post as the German showed stark improvement on his previous performances, benefitting from consistent game time in between the sticks.
Sorry but if De Gea made this save that Karius just made everyone would be twerking for him pic.twitter.com/o2iBLjJcgf
— ₁ (@KariusEdition) February 11, 2018
Matip again struggled to show good form alongside Van Dijk, getting too tight on the Southampton attackers and allowing the ball to bounce over his head inside the area. Previously regarded as Liverpool’s best defender, the Dutchman’s arrival has made it quite clear that he was merely the best of a bad bunch, rather than a stellar defender himself. Meanwhile, Van Dijk put in a brilliant display in what was a hostile atmosphere at his former club. Visibly talking to the rest of the back-four, he’s looking more and more like the authoritative leader Liverpool have long been craving.
Heading into the break 1-0 ahead, Liverpool were still in need of improvements across the pitch to ensure Southampton weren’t gifted a way back into the contest. Fitting then, that they scored a goal of the highest order just two minutes before the interval. Joel Matip picked up the ball just inside Southampton’s half, neatly slotting it into Mohamed Salah between the lines before an immaculate one-two with Firmino saw him record his 29th goal of the season. The Brazilian’s sumptuous flick reflected the telepathic relationship between the two forwards as Liverpool took a giant leap towards their hopes of a top-four finish after United suffered defeat against Newcastle.
Firmino now has been involved in 31 goals this season, with 20 goals and 11 assists marking the monumental impact he has for Klopp’s side not just in terms of goal-scoring but the way in which he links the play and offers a strong creative spark for those around him. Both he and Salah are the driving forces of Klopp’s engine and there’s every chance a top-two finish could be on the cards for The Reds. Routine wins like this will certainly help.