Liverpool scored in each half to edge closer to a Champions League spot and subject Southampton to their 17th defeat of the Premier League season.
It was just two changes for Southampton, one enforced as Takumi Minamino was ineligible to face his parent club. In his place came Theo Walcott, whilst it was the switch of ‘keeper which saw Fraser Forster start between the sticks in place of Alex McCarthy.
Chelsea’s win over Manchester City earlier in the evening gave Jurgen Klopp’s side even more of a challenge if they are to sneak into the Champions League this season. Perhaps this inspired them, but it wasn’t evident within the first ten minutes or so as both sides managed to edge each other out in an even opening at Anfield.
The first real chance of the game fell to Sadio Mane, who was stood on the edge of the box when Trent Alexander-Arnold whipped a ball into his path. A half-volley from the former Saints man flashed just over the visitors’ goal.
Later, chances fell to Mo Salah and Diego Jota, both of which challenged Forster but neither strike looked capable of beating the ‘keeper.
The closest Liverpool came was just before the half-hour mark, when Gini Wijnaldum rose highest to meet Alexander-Arnold’s corner, but it struck the top of the cross bar.
Eventually, the hosts’ pressure paid off as Mo Salah’s cross dropped perfectly for the head of Mane to give Liverpool the lead just after half an hour into the game with his first home league goal in 9 games. It originally came from a good counter attack from the Reds, who were under pressure from Nathan Tella and Che Adams’ shots which forced a double save from Alisson.
Just before half time, Southampton came close to levelling when Nathan Redmond’s cross were perfectly weighted to fall for Tella, but his header was poor and didn’t challenge Alisson – arguably one of their better chances of the first half.
A corner early in the second half worked wonders for Liverpool, with Alexander-Arnold’s set-pieces proving tricky for Southampton to deal with. This time it was Nat Phillips who should’ve done better when meeting the ball.
Che Adams had a chance to level it midway through the second half thanks to a sloppy pass from Alisson which fell straight into the former Birmingham striker’s path, but no punishment came from it.
Another sloppy ball from Alisson gave Kyle Walker-Peters a chance to spark an attack but Nat Phillips dealt with the mistake well.
However, any chance of Southampton getting anything from this game was quashed as Thiago scored his first Liverpool goal with a quick attack involving Roberto Firmino playing the ball into the Spaniard who struck a ball well to get the crucial second of the night for the hosts.
The win keeps Liverpool in the hunt – albeit as strong outsiders – for a top-four place. Meanwhile for Southampton – not yet mathematically safe – it is another season of mediocre play after such promise early in the campaign. Southampton host Crystal Palace later in the week before wrapping up their campaign with what will feel like dead-rubber matches against Fulham, Leeds and West Ham – though the latter will still be in the hunt for Champions League football.
FT: Liverpool 2-0 SOUTHAMPTON (Mane 31′, Thiago 90’+1′)
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Rhys Williams, Robertson, Fabinho, Thiago, Wijnaldum, Jota (Firmino 79′), Mane (Jones 90’+3′), Salah (Oxlade-Chamberlain 87′). Unused Subs: Adrián, Tsimikas, Shaqiri, Neco Williams, Koumetio, Woodburn.
Southampton: Forster, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestegaard, Stephens, Tella (Diallo 66′), Ward-Prowse, Armstrong, Redmond, Walcott (Diall0 66′), Adams (Djenepo 79′). Unused Subs: McCarthy, Salisu, Ramsay, N’Lundulu, Ferry, Jankewitz.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool).
Referee: Kevin Friend.