Saints beaten by Liverpool comeback

By SFC Media Fri 05 Apr Saints v Liverpool
Photo by Matt Watson | Pierre-Emile Højbjerg
Fri 05 Apr 8PM
Premier League
Southampton
1
Liverpool
3
Long [9']
Keita [36'] Salah [80'] Henderson [86']
Bednarek (48') Bertrand (75')
Salah (81') Robertson (89') Henderson (90+1') Mané (90+4')
Referee: Paul Tierney | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 31,797

Liverpool kept alive their hopes of an historic Premier League triumph after a spirited Southampton effort went unrewarded in an electric atmosphere under the lights at St Mary’s.

Saints got off to the perfect start when Shane Long broke the deadlock with an early opener that send the home supporters into a frenzy, as the hosts put their visitors under intense pressure from the off.

Having regained their composure, Liverpool drew level through Naby Keita’s 36th minute header, but still looked on course to be frustrated as the second half wore on and the scores remained level.

It would be Mo Salah, so often the Reds’ go-to man, who ended an eight-match goal drought to run the ball from one box to the other and finish with an accurate low shot.

Substitute Jordan Henderson made sure the points would be heading north to Merseyside as his team reclaimed top spot in the process.

Ralph Hasenhüttl made two changes to his side, who came into the game following back-to-back wins – albeit three weeks apart – over Tottenham and Brighton.

One was enforced, with on-loan Liverpool striker Danny Ings ineligible and Long reclaiming his place as the team’s focal point, while Jannik Vestergaard was fit again after a groin strain forced him to miss the trip to the Amex Stadium.

The Dane’s presence meant a return to a back three, with Stuart Armstrong the attacking player to make way.

Shane Long's low shot beats Alisson to give Saints the perfect start

Saints started impressively, not afraid to take to the game to their title-chasing visitors.

Quick to break when winning the ball in midfield, first Nathan Redmond fed Ryan Bertrand on the overlap, whose dangerous cross was headed nervously behind for a corner.

It was from a similar move that Saints stole the lead inside nine minutes to shock Liverpool.

Bertrand raced forward again, providing another inviting cross this time flicked on by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and dispatched by Long, who took one touch to control and finished calmly into the bottom corner from six yards. Cue pandemonium.

Saints were first to everything, beating Liverpool at their famed pressing game, but the visitors were quick to respond. 

Salah teased Saints and crossed to Sadio Mané, who would surely have scored from close range had his header been anywhere but straight at Angus Gunn, who palmed it just wide enough that Keita could not force home the rebound from a tight angle.

Back came Saints in a breathless opening 20 minutes. Redmond with the teasing centre, this time missed by Long who was completely unmarked, before returning villain Virgil van Dijk scooped the ball over his own crossbar with the home fans baying for an own goal.

The intensity with which the hosts were rushing Liverpool into mistakes was quite something, but did beg the question of how long it could be sustained.

The Irishman celebrates as St Mary's erupted to acclaim the opener

For the time being at least, the Reds were rattled. Roberto Firmino snatched at a volley that looped apologetically over Gunn’s crossbar, before Andrew Robertson drove a cross-field pass straight out of play.

Before long they were enjoying more and more possession, and gaining momentum.

James Ward-Prowse was bailed out by Maya Yoshida, after the former lost the ball and the latter won it back from Salah, but Saints could not keep Liverpool at bay much longer.

Nine minutes before the interval, Keita struck. When a cross from the left eluded Mané, Trent Alexander-Arnold kept it alive and sent it back in, right on to the head of Keita, who isn’t the tallest of players but rose well to head it down just inside Gunn’s right-hand post.

The equaliser may have come at a bad time, but the half-time break did offer Saints a chance to recharge their batteries, and Hasenhüttl’s men restarted the game back on the front foot.

Redmond set off on another darting run, breezing his way into the box only to run into the typically uncompromising figure of van Dijk, while Vestergaard headed the resulting corner wide.

Such was the threat of Saints’ Bertrand-Redmond axis down the left, Jürgen Klopp opted to sacrifice his right-back, as goal creator Alexander Arnold made way for James Milner to fill an unfamiliar role, while skipper Henderson replaced Georginio Wijnaldum in a double switch.

By that time, Liverpool were up in arms over a sliding challenge by Yoshida on Keita, who could only have been denied a spot-kick by virtue of his heavy touch, which had already run through to Gunn.

Mo Salah's 80th minute strike proved the key moment as Liverpool edged in front

Hasenhüttl made his first move just after the hour, as goalscorer Long departed to a standing ovation and the ever-energetic Josh Sims entered the fray to maintain Saints’ pace in attack.

By the final 20 minutes, Liverpool were firmly in the ascendancy, but Gunn remained largely untroubled, as his defenders cleared all before him.

When they did get in behind, Robertson spurned the chance to put the ball on a plate for Salah and ballooned his cross out for a throw-in on the far side.

But just as Saints sensed a famous victory, the visitors struck the decisive blow with ten minutes to go.

Chasing a winner, the hosts forced consecutive corners, before Liverpool countered at lightning pace from the second of those after Sims was crowded out in the box.

The ball broke to Salah, who still had 80 yards to run, but the Egyptian did not need anybody else.

With Firmino in support, Salah used the Brazilian’s run to create space to carry the ball all the way to the edge of the opposite penalty area, where he picked his spot and planted a low shot into the bottom corner to send the travelling fans into raptures.

Saints had given everything but any remote hopes of salvaging a result were extinguished six minutes later, as Firmino picked out the onrushing Henderson, who had the simplest task to finish the job from six yards.

Tonight's match sponsor: SportPesa
Southampton

Head to Head Stats

Liverpool
  • Possession (%)
    33
    67
  • Shots
    11
    17
  • Shots on target
    1
    5
  • Corners
    7
    5
  • Passes Complete
    175
    465

Southampton

28
Angus Gunn (GK)
35
Jan Bednarek
3
Maya Yoshida
4
Jannik Vestergaard
Charlie Austin (83′)
23
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C)
14
Oriol Romeu
Stuart Armstrong (83′)
43
Yan Valery
21
Ryan Bertrand
7
Shane Long
Josh Sims (62′)
16
James Ward-Prowse
22
Nathan Redmond
15
Sam Gallagher
10
Charlie Austin
39
Josh Sims
5
Jack Stephens
1
Alex McCarthy
33
Matt Targett
17
Stuart Armstrong

Liverpool

13
Alisson (GK)
4
Virgil van Dijk (C)
26
Andrew Robertson
66
Trent Alexander-Arnold
Jordan Henderson (59′)
32
Joel Matip
5
Georginio Wijnaldum
James Milner (59′)
3
Fabinho
8
Naby Keita
Dejan Lovren (88′)
9
Roberto Firmino
10
Sadio Mané
11
Mohamed Salah
18
Alberto Moreno
23
Xherdan Shaqiri
27
Divock Origi
6
Dejan Lovren
22
Simon Mignolet
7
James Milner
14
Jordan Henderson
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