Liverpool left it late once again as they came from behind to secure a vital win at St Mary’s on Friday night. Shane Long gave the hosts an early lead, but goals from Naby Keita, Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson saw the Reds complete the comeback and return to the top of the Premier League. The Late Late Show with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool… Liverpool fans weren’t exactly bursting with confidence heading into the match, understandably so given a few recent below-par performances and an encounter with a rejuvenated and in-form Southampton side. Matches under the lights are normally exciting and this was no different as Saints were superb from the start and threw a spanner in the works when Long, who else, fired home after some messy defending from the Reds. Keita’s equaliser came at a crucial time as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s were seriously impressive and causing the visitors all sorts of problems on the counter-attack. Southampton even started the second half as the better side, but as Liverpool have done throughout the season, Klopp’s men went up the gears and found the goals they were looking for. The Reds have so much belief when in need of a goal at the moment, and it has been a key reason as to why they are still in the title race. Once again, it wasn’t pretty at times, but Liverpool got the job done.
Where have all the clean sheets gone?…It has just started to creep up on Liverpool without them probably really realising it. Since the 4-0 win over Newcastle on Boxing Day, the Reds then kept one clean sheet in seven games in all competitions, then managed five shut-outs in a row, but now find themselves having conceded in all of their last five matches. For a team that has undoubtedly improved defensively this season, the game against Southampton at times saw Liverpool return to their shaky defending of previous seasons – Joel Matip’s performance personifying this quite well. The defending for Long’s goal was poor as a midfield runner wasn’t tracked, and a few moments later it could have easily been 2-0 when Trent Alexander-Arnold got himself into a spot of bother. The return of Joe Gomez to the starting line-up will be a reassuring sight given he was just as good as Virgil Van Dijk at the start of the campaign, and at the end of the day conceding at most one goal still gives Liverpool a strong platform from which they can win matches. Still, a return to some clean sheets would be nice alongside three points. Substitutions inspire impressive turnaround… What’s this? Klopp making early substitutions and substitutions that played a pivotal role in winning the match? Surely not? Well somehow it did happen as the manager’s double change before the hour mark of bringing Henderson and James Milner on for Gini Wijnaldum and Alexander-Arnold worked a treat. The midfield three that Klopp deployed to start the match was one that supporters were very excited about, but nobody would have played that trio of they would have known how well Saints would have started. Wijnaldum hasn’t been at his best for a few weeks, and sadly put in a trademark Wijnaldum ‘away from home’ display with poor distribution and positional awareness. Fabinho and Keita were also shaky in parts, so it was left to the captain and vice-captain to come off the bench and change the game. Henderson played a key role in Salah’s goal as it was his header that set the Egyptian away, and was then in the right place at the right time to score his first goal in a couple of years and seal the victory. Milner too added a authoritative figure in what was an end-to-end encounter at the time, and he, Henderson and Klopp deserve huge amounts of credit. Keita helps front three produce classic attacking performance… The likely case is that Keita only started the fixture because of an injury to Adam Lallana, but Baby Keith took his chance and give Liverpool fans the moment they have all been waiting for as the midfielder scored his first goal for the club – and a crucial one at that. Keita does still need to improve his focus and position when tracking back, but going forwards he offered exactly what the Reds have lacked far too often this season. His running beyond the attack and into the area caused Southampton all sorts of problems and he should have won a clear penalty when brought down by Maya Yoshida. Keita’s link-up play allowed the front three to shine, and in the second half the attacking trident were in full flow. Salah scored the all important second goal and finally put an end to his scoring drought, and is clearly benefitting from last weekend’s confidence boost. Mane was untouchable down the left wing and made a crucial block which led to Salah’s goal, and it was brilliant play from Firmino to give Henderson to tap-in. Hopefully this is the start of the Reds’ attack all singing from the same song sheet once more.