Southampton 1 - 3 Liverpool
Southampton: Long 9’
Liverpool: Keïta 36’, Salah 80’, Henderson 86’
Friday matchdays are stupid and we stand by this but the excitement of being able to retake the top of the Premier League table today at St. Mary’s isn’t. Southampton have been good to us with players throughout the years and while they’re fighting to remain above the relegation vortex, here’s hoping they can be generous one more—last, maybe—time and help get us back ahead of City. So’ton do have a decent run in, though, with Newcastle, Wolves, and Huddersfield to come, so they might be more inclined to take things easy here in an effort to preserve themselves for those easier matches.
Things get started with the Southampton fans booing Virgil van Dijk every time he gets a touch and the Liverpool fans doing their best to drown it out. We knew from previous visits to St. Mary’s that that was coming, as they boo basically every former player of theirs except Rickie Lambert (and who would boo Rickie Lambert, honestly).
As for, Southampton they aren’t taking thing easy here, doing their best to unsettle Liverpool early with a high press approach. They’re pushing forward as a group, looking for goals from the support players with leading goal scorer Danny Ings ineligible as he’s on loan from Liverpool. They’re definitely playing high and getting into dangerous areas early on, so Liverpool’s response is going to need to be quick.
Liverpool response isn’t quick enough. Southampton go 1-0 up through Shane Long after Høbjerg breaks through the midfield to set him up. Poor stuff from the Reds. No one from midfield was tracking Høbjerg’s run and honestly, it’s shameful that that set up was even allowed to happen. Liverpool need to get their shit together and do it fast, because a second goal might end their title dream.
Things fo start to look like they’re coming together a little better after the goal, as Liverpool push back up to the box, but the home side are up to the task any time the Reds push forward and are creating their own chances on the break. Honestly, it’s hard to tell which side here is challenging for a title and which is on the verge of being relegated, and Liverpool’s midfield in particular—the much-desired trio of Fabinho, Naby Keïta, and Gini Wijnaldum—don’t look up to the task.
In related news, remember last season when we took out Dejan Lovren after like twenty minutes? Can we do that again just with replacing the entire midfield? Because this is 100% NOT GOOD, and it’s the midfield at the root of Liverpool’s problems. Or, out of nowhere, maybe they aren’t the problem? Because now it’s 36 minutes in and Naby Keïta has made the breakthrough, scoring his first Liverpool goal!
It’s a well worked move—and, in fairness, Liverpool have often looked at least promising with the ball, it’s just without it they’ve really struggled—and it does a lot to settle the team, who do look a lot better through to the end of the half. It’s still not great stuff from the Reds, and we have more than a few concerns and question marks heading into the break—but at least the scoreline is level.
After a bit of a weird first half that saw Liverpool looking vulnerable far too often, the second starts with an unchanged eleven—the starters managed to settle themselves enough to earn a largely deserved equaliser, and they will get the chance to show they can now build on that and push on to earn all three points.
Their early efforts to do just that are a bit of a muddle, as both sides appear to have dialled it back a little, Liverpool more conservative to protect against an unexpectedly dangerous Southampton and Southampton less willing to commit forward than in the first, perhaps expecting Liverpool pressure. There’s a lot of trading the ball back and forth and not a lot by way of quality play in either attacking third.
Southampton, though, are probably just shading it, which isn’t a great sign for the Reds. It’s not a big surprise, then, that Klopp elects to bring both James Milner and Jordan Henderson on before the 60-minute mark. What is surprising is that Milner replaces Trent Alexander-Arnold, who hasn’t made an impact—which will have some wondering if he might be injured. Whatever the reasons for the individual changes, Liverpool instantly look more composed—then downright dominant.
But Southampton just. Won’t. Crack. They have ten men back and all the play is in their end, Liverpool trying to work an opening and defenders throwing themselves in front of shots and half-chances. It feels like they have to, eventually, but the clock keeps ticking and with every mad scramble and defensive header away, Liverpool’s chances look to be fading.
And then they break! Finally, they break! Or, maybe more accurately, Mohamed Salah breaks them, driving down the pitch off a Southampton corner. He has option but only has eyes for the goal and snaps the shot into the top right of the goal to put Liverpool up with ten minutes to play. He’s so excited—or relieved, maybe—that he tears off his shirt in celebration as the travelling Liverpool fans go mad in the stands.
What a way to break a goal drought. And what a relief for not just the player, but all of Liverpool. Southampton, meanwhile, have to push for a goal of their own now—and it backfires as Liverpool break and Firmino squares to Jordan Henderson for his first in more than a year. For a game that felt like it was in doubt for Liverpool for so, so long, it ends feeling almost inevitable.
Liverpool certainly didn’t make it easy on themselves with a terrible first half that saw a the midfield overrun far too easily, but in the end the gulf in talent between the two sides and the attacking qualities of Mo Salah mean they were able to claw back into the game and take all three points—putting them back ahead of Manchester City in the table for at least the next nine days.