Situated on the broadcasting gantry within Anfield’s main stand, Oliver Miller offers his view on Liverpool’s Premier League match against Southampton
Sumptuous Salah sends Liverpool to victory against struggling Saints
“It was the perfect day for us,” Jurgen Klopp proclaimed post-match. A 3-0 victory off the back of an international break is usually one to savour, yet the affair at Anfield on Saturday wasn’t exactly spectacular. Anfield was subdued for much of the afternoon – expectation rather than anticipation was the overriding emotion. Liverpool started slowly and allowed Southampton a fair amount of time and space on the ball. Chances from Georginio Wijnaldum and Philippe Coutinho tested Fraser Forster midway through the first-half and this signalled the beginning of Liverpool’s sustained pressure that lasted for the rest of the match.
Southampton – who were guilty of making a number of errors – found themselves a goal down on the half-hour mark; Tadic was dispossessed on the edge of his own penalty area by Roberto Firmino, with Wijnaldum going on to find Salah, who curled an effort beyond the helpless Forster. With the goal came added swagger for the home side but the crowd remained expectant rather than entertained.
The second came ten minutes later when a fine Coutinho threaded pass picked out an expertly-timed run by Salah, who prodded the ball into the Saint’s net. Salah’s two first-half goals were significant – no Premier League player has more goals in all competitions than Salah’s fourteen this season.
After the break, Liverpool continued to dominate. Southampton – a side carrying little confidence in their attacking ability given their return of just nine league goals this season – wilted after Salah’s double. Firmino had a goal attempt saved by Forster before Coutinho sent an effort whistling past the post. Coutinho did get on the scoresheet – and put the game well and truly to bed – with a close-range finish. A rebound off the chest of Forster, following a Firmino effort, fell perfectly for Coutinho who made no mistake with the finish.
In all, Liverpool had 21 shots at goal in a one-way contest. Southampton did come close with a Ryan Bertrand free-kick that was just wide of the post. Salah received a standing ovation when he was replaced on 80 minutes – arguably the best buy of the summer in the Premier League has certainly already exhibited his worth to the Anfield crowd.
Praise also came from the manager, “maybe he’s surprising himself a little bit – he scored a lot in Italy, but he’s in a very good moment,” Klopp admitted. “That’s Mo’s biggest strength, to run into these areas without being offside, I don’t know how it’s possible – but the runs are fantastic,” he added. Salah put in a man-of-the-match performance and his nine goals represent the most scored by a Liverpool player after their first 12 matches – beating Robbie Fowler’s record of eight.
The understanding in Coutinho and Salah’s link-up play was apparent and Coutinho – who may not receive as many plaudits as Salah for his performance – was again fundamental in injecting guile and tempo into Liverpool’s attacks. The Brazilian (31) is now the player with the third-most assists for Liverpool in the Premier League, with only Steven Gerrard (92) and Steve McManaman (58) – both of whom will be at Anfield next Saturday with BT Sports when Chelsea come to visit –having made more.
Klopp was also quick to praise his defence as they picked up another clean sheet – their fifth in seven consecutive matches – even if they were never really tested by a virtually non-existent Southampton attack. Klavan led the backline, Lovren – buoyed by Croatia’s World Cup playoff victory during the international break– looked assured, and both full-backs provided width to the Liverpool attacks. This was the first of thirteen matches for Liverpool before New Year’s Day and although it was fairly unspectacular and rather mundane it was certainly a step in the right direction.