When Virgil van Dijk took to the pitch at St. Mary’s on Friday evening, memories came flooding back (both fond and otherwise) of when he would turn out at the venue on a regular basis. This time, however, he was wearing the purple of Liverpool’s away kit – and few would have argued going into the game that the end result would be anything other than an away win. Southampton are not a bad side, but they have really struggled to find their feet for much of the season. Despite improving well under the guidance of Ralph Hasenhüttl, Liverpool are a title-chasing side who cannot afford to slip up as they take on current champions Man City in the final furlong. In the end, what occurred was an absolute cracker, and the second game of the week in a row to feature Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Republic of Ireland international Shane Long had put the hosts in front after only nine minutes, maintaining his composure as he shot the ball into the back of the net from within the Liverpool penalty area. That was only the 20th goal Liverpool have conceded this season, but nevertheless the goal gave Saints a real burst and ensured Liverpool were chasing the game from early on. Naby Keita headed the visitors level with 10 minutes or so to go of the first half (a trend that the side would continue in the second half as well), and with the game tied at half time many figured Liverpool would go out and walk the second half.
It took them until the 80th minute to finally take the lead, when a wonderful solo goal from Egyptian international Mohamed Salah eased the building nerves in the away end. Salah had previously gone six league games without a goal, but this was a truly wonderful way to end that “drought”. Jordan Henderson then sealed the victory right near the end, tapping in a close range effort to kill the game off with less than five minutes to go. It took two late goals to see off Southampton, who could really have done with getting something out of the game as the result sees them just five points ahead of Cardiff in the highest relegation spot.
For Liverpool, meanwhile, the win meant they would leapfrog Man City back into the Premier League’s top spot – the 25th time the top spot has changed hands this season – and they sit with a two point lead (though they have played a game more than City). This title run-in is truly proving to be one of the closest in recent seasons, and is Liverpool’s first serious tilt at the title since they fell short to Chelsea five years ago.
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