Liverpool cannot afford a slip, needing perfection down the stretch to keep pace with Manchester City and keep the title hopes alive.
The Reds were far from perfect on Friday at St. Mary’s, battered in midfield and pressed by a Jurgen Klopp clone on the opposing touchline. Ultimately, despite an imperfect performance, they earned a perfect result thanks to Mohamed Salah‘s 80th minute goal that sent Liverpool on its way to a 3-1 victory over Southampton despite falling behind inside the opening 10 minutes.
Liverpool fought back the entire match, as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s press baffled the likes of Naby Keita and Fabinho. The Reds were exposed at times, but by halftime, they seemed to have sorted things out, and by the hour mark, they were in full control, having made the appropriate substitutions to expose the talent gap.
Southampton went in front just nine minutes in as Shane Long found himself wide open in front of net. A ball in from deep delivered by Ryan Bertrand found Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg who managed to get himself in front of Virgil Van Dijk and flick the ball with his head. It fell perfectly behind him to Long who was waiting, and with Andrew Robertson overplaying the ball, Long was all alone to punch in the finish.
Long nearly had a second in the 18th minute, and probably should have scored, but he somehow whiffed on a cross from the left. Had he connected, he would have been all along in front of goal with just Alisson to beat yet again.
Liverpool drew level on 36 minutes as Southampton cleared two previous attempts, but on the third Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s ball from near the corner flag found Naby Keita at the back post, and he headed Liverpool back level. There was a hint of offside early in the buildup as Mohamed Salah made a run, but it was a
After the break, the Reds maintained possessional control but Southampton continued to prove dangerous on the break. Slowly as the half wore on, the visitors build themselves into the ascendency. Liverpool had a penalty shout as Keita threw himself to ground under contact by Maya Yoshida just before the hour mark, and while the defender made slight contact, the referee let play continue.
By the 67th minute, it was all Liverpool on the attack. Roberto Firimino nearly scored a Goal of the Season candidate, flicking the ball over his defender to put himself clean through, but Yoshida was on hand to make an enormous block. It took 15 more minutes, but eventually Liverpool found the all-important moment.
On the break off a Southampton corner, Salah found himself one-on-one across midfield with the lone Southampton defender back in Bertrand. Redmond also managed to get back, but the Egyptian split the two and unleashed a right-footed effort from the top of the box, putting it past Angus Gunn who appeared somewhat surprised to see Salah shoot rather than pass Firmino to his left.
The goal sent Liverpool through, and they secured the three points on yet another break as a long ball from van Dijk deep in Liverpool’s half found a breaking Firmino down the right, and the Brazilian sensed a teammate streaking down the middle. His cross found Jordan Henderson flying down the center unmarked for an easy finish to put Liverpool 3-1 up.
The win sent Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League table by two points, and while Manchester City still holds the advantage thanks to its game in hand, the pressure is back on Pep Guardiola to take care of business. Had Liverpool dropped points, the title race would have swung heavily in City’s favor owning a lead plus the game in hand.