Saints edged out by Liverpool


Southampton were pegged back as Liverpool overcame an early flash of inspiration from Nathan Redmond to keep their slim hopes of landing the Premier League title alive.

A rested and refreshed Saints side took the lead through Redmond’s first league goal of the season in the penultimate game of the campaign, as the stand-in wing-back tore down the left, jinked inside and buried an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box.

But a much-changed Liverpool team soon assumed control, drawing level through former Saints loanee Takumi Minamino in the first half, and ultimately winning the game through Joël Matip midway through the second.

With Saints back in action for the first time in 10 days, Ralph Hasenhüttl made five changes to his side, including the enforced absence of goalkeeper Fraser Forster through injury.

That meant a first outing in five months for Alex McCarthy, while Jack Stephens, Lyanco, Nathan Tella and Mohamed Elyounoussi also came into the starting line-up.

Jan Bednarek, Stuart Armstrong and Adam Armstrong dropped to the bench, but Romain Perraud was unavailable having sustained a leg fracture that will keep him out for “five or six weeks” according to the boss.

Meanwhile, opposite number Jürgen Klopp promised changes following the exertions of Saturday’s FA Cup final triumph after extra time and penalties against Chelsea, and duly delivered nine alterations, with Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah all left at home.

The driving rain in which both sides warmed up gave way to blazing sunshine soon after kick-off, as Saints started with Redmond operating in an unfamiliar left wing-back role.

The hosts were compact in their defending, but ready to spring into action when the opportunity arose.

The first such occasion saw Kyle Walker-Peters feed the ball down the line for Armando Broja, whose pace took him eye to eye with Alisson, but the angle was against the striker, who was thwarted by the Brazilian.

That chance gave St Mary’s a fresh dose of optimism, and the home fans were on their feet when Redmond thundered home an unstoppable shot 13 minutes in.

Klopp was incensed on the touchline after Lyanco stepped in to dispossess Diogo Jota, which the German felt was a foul, before Saints launched a counter-attack.

The defender found Tella, who in turn fed the ball further left to Redmond, still in his own half.

Soon in more familiar territory, he drove forward into the penalty area, then jinked back inside and unleashed a beauty from 20 yards that flew into the far corner of the net, high to Alisson’s left.

The locals were euphoric, but the away end was on its feet five minutes later when Roberto Firmino nodded in Kostas Tsimikas’s far-post free-kick, heading the ball across McCarthy, only to be flagged offside.

It was a warning for what was to follow. Liverpool, as expected, had responded well to falling behind, and duly levelled things up on 27 minutes.

Joe Gomez fizzed the ball into Jota, who killed it in an instant and fed the run of Minamino to his right, who took it in his stride, surged into a shooting position and rifled the ball high into the net at McCarthy’s near post.

Liverpool kept coming. James Milner’s speculative 30-yarder was shovelled aside by McCarthy, before Curtis Jones shot wide and Firmino forced James Ward-Prowse into a timely clearance inside his own six-yard box as the visitors turned the screw.

Another shot over the bar from Firmino, who was dropping into pockets to receive the ball, was less threatening but served as a reminder that Saints needed to get up the pitch to avoid inviting further pressure after the interval.

The first chance of the second period was the Reds’ best since the equaliser. Tsimikas, raiding forward again down the left, crossed low for Jota, whose shot from 10 yards bobbled inches wide of McCarthy’s far post.

Then Firmino played in Harvey Elliott, faced by the advancing McCarthy, who could not wrap his right foot around the ball quite enough to hit the target and instead shot into the side-netting.

Chances aside, Saints felt more competitive since the restart, with Broja winning a free-kick that invited Ward-Prowse to have a crack, but it proved too far out even for the maestro, who drilled his effort into the wall.

With a draw no use to Klopp in pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple, the manager turned to regular super-sub Divock Origi, but instead it was unlikely scorer Matip who turned the game on its head midway through the second period.

When Tsimikas’s corner from the left was only half-cleared, the defender towered over Walker-Peters to send a looping header over McCarthy and into the net.

Hasenhüttl’s response was a double change, introducing Oriol Romeu and Stuart Armstrong for Ibrahima Diallo and Tella in pursuit of a route back into the contest.

Instead the equaliser was nearly provided by Tsimikas, who had been impressive down the Liverpool left, but Saturday’s Wembley hero nearly turned to villain when he skewed Redmond’s teasing cross dangerously close to his own goal.

Ché Adams replaced Broja, who had run himself into the ground, with seven minutes left, but Saints were unable to find a spark the home fans, and followers of Man City, so craved.

The lively Redmond forced Alisson into an uncomfortable moment when another fierce shot temporarily escaped his grasp, while Walker-Peters’s header lacked sufficient power to beat the Brazilian, as Saints made Liverpool work for three critical points.