Sunday’s win against Southampton looked every bit the cool and composed performance that Liverpool have attempted to put in this month, despite the slapdash nature of previous matches. Southampton started the game in the bottom three and looked primed to fight for their lives against the Reds but ended up giving up two goals in the first half and being content with the loss. Boss Jürgen Klopp seemed pretty pleased with the team’s performance, especially their ability to hold onto their lead for a full 45 minutes, at an away match.
“I think not brilliant but we were ready for hard work, doing the right things in the right moment, reacting in a good way in the second half,” Klopp said during his presser following the match.
“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.”
Any other game a 2-0 lead for the Reds would’ve been almost more anxiety-inducing than 1-0 lead, but the composed performances of Loris Karius and Virgil van Dijk - the latter especially considering the circumstances in which he’d left the home side - helped ensured Liverpool came home with three points.
“I think the whole Southampton team is really good. Second half, they didn’t create chances and we defended really well, but in the first half they had two. But Loris was there and I was really happy about that,” Klopp continued.
“Obviously as a Liverpool ‘keeper you need special moments to convince the people and there were at least two of them – and with the first pass for the first goal, there are three situations we can bring on his bill.”
Regarding van Dijk, Klopp took a more hands on approach before the match, knowing that returning to a former club isn’t easy on anyone. Especially one that he’d only left less than two months ago.
“He did really well, he dealt with the situation fantastically,” answered Klopp regarding van Dijk.
“We had a little talk before the game and I asked, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘No, I’m fine boss’. I don’t want to make him nervous if he isn’t nervous and obviously he wasn’t and that’s good.
“I understand everything in football; the crowd is there to make life difficult for the opponent but I think it was not too difficult for him from this point of view and I’m happy about it.”
Liverpool go on to face West Ham next after a slight break but the win on Sunday ensured their spot in third for the time being. The objective now is to see how much further they can climb up the table - first may be unattainable at this point but second place is within reaching distance but Klopp isn’t focused on that at all. Even if it means taking it away from arch-rivals.
“We don’t hesitate, we take whatever we can get but it’s not that we make the final bill now. We didn’t know before the game that United would lose, but we know that we are not too far away,” Klopp continued.
“But it’s not a battle between them and us, we play against them one more time in this season at least. For us, 54 points, that’s important. What the other teams have, we have no influence on, so we need to win.
“We now have the Champions League, then we have West Ham at home, [which] is difficult. They probably have Arnautovic back, Lanzini back, and they are in a good run as well. That’s all exciting, all intense, we need all the points and for today I am really happy that we could take these very, very difficult-to-reach three.”
So are we, boss. So are we.