Hold me closer little dancer,
Count the headlights on the highway,
Lay me down in sheets of linen,
You’ve had a busy day today.
How much did Liverpool need Mo Salah to score that goal? How much did Naby Keita need to come through like that? How much did Jordan Henderson need to grab the reins of this team and be a big part of a clutch victory?
Strange to say about a Liverpool side that is two wins away from the club’s highest point total ever in the Premier League with five to play, but The Reds exercised some demons today.
The manager’s only remaining demon for Liverpool is winning a trophy as he apparently has everything else figured out. The match was not short on narratives. Jurgen Klopp finally gave us “the people’s midfield” of Naby Keita, Gini Wijnaldum and Fabinho. Obviously with the combination we’ve all been clamoring for The Reds conceded within the first ten minutes because we’re all geniuses who are only held back from being Premier League managers by circumstance.
Yes, Shane Long dusted off his scoring boots and took a scrappy, headed ball that floated over our defenders and kindly placed it into the left corner. Basically everyone in purple was at fault. Matip was covering grass, Van Dijk doesn’t win the header, Robertson loses his man, Alisson doesn’t come out when Long is the only threat in the box and you can even blame Keita if you’re feeling saucy.
The goal was well deserved in that Southampton looked like the side playing for something in the opening minutes. Liverpool had a hard time holding onto possession and playing the ball out until well into the match, almost the inverse of what we saw against Spurs. Virgil van Dijk was bailing out the team, time after time, heading away everything in the middle of the park, just begging his teammates to get back on the front foot.
Cross after cross went into the box, and just when you were about to throw your remote, Trent connected on one, threading a ball through from the right to… Naby already sold Keita. That goal support that has been so obviously needed from our midfield arrived in the 36th minute. The header wasn’t anything spectacular from Keita, who simply snuck into the right place and made the most of his chance when it arrived.
The half ended with Liverpool playing better, but still needing a goal to keep pace with City. The next big opportunity would come from Naby Keita again. Charging into the box in the 56th minute, Keita popped the ball over Yoshida’s legs and went down as the Southampton man followed through into his ankles. No penalty was given, but the signs of potency from the midfield were heart-warming for Liverpool supporters who have been begging for this since Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury.
Credit to Southampton who are in the middle of the relegation scrap and looking for points anywhere they can get them as they started time-wasting like absolute pros. Every throw-in needed a thoroughly polished ball. Every injury needed an extra few rolls on the turf. Every shin-guard needed readjusting. As the time wore down, it started to look inevitable that Liverpool would draw, and focus their attention on making another run to the Champions League final.
When all looked hopeless, in stepped… the Egyptian King. A ball came into the top of the D at Liverpool’s end and with Mo Salah maneuvering into position before it even caromed out to him, everyone at home sat up in their chair with anticipation. Mo was off on a Liverpool break rarely seen anymore and Bobby Firmino sprinted out of the pack to give him an option on his left with only Bertrand back-tracking ahead of them. Then, just as you were about to scream, PASS THE BALL, Salah flicked in a shot, just above the boots of outstretched Saints defenders and into the net. The Mo of old was back, baby!
He ripped off his shirt, revealing his rare combination of massive beard hair with finely manicured chest follicles. The travelling Kop approved. Mo Salah, Mo Salah, runnin’ down the wing!
Jordan Henderson and James Milner, who had come on as all-energy subs in this one, were buzzing around the place. And while debates raged about Henderson’s best role in the squad, box-to-box, six, starter, substitute, the captain ghosted past distracted Liverpool supporters and the whole Saints back line to put The Reds up for good. Slick assist from Bobby Firmino. Huge moment for Jordan Henderson and his Reds. On to Porto at Chelsea back at Anfield.
Up the Exercised Reds!