Liverpool cruised to a 3-0 win and made it seven wins from seven across all competitions as Southampton continued their increasingly common trend of failing to beat Liverpool away from home; they’ve now failed to do so since 21st September 2013.
The Reds kept their first clean sheet in three as they jumped into first place, making the best start to a season that has been seen at Anfield in 28 years.
It seemed too easy at times, as Liverpool didn’t really get out of second gear for the majority of the match and it didn’t take long for them to take the lead. It was the 10th minute as Liverpool played a corner into the box which was cleared, only for Sadio Mane to play the ball into the path of new teammate Xherdan Shaqiri, who cut inside on his right foot and had an effort on goal, unfortunately for him it was going wide but fortunately for Liverpool, Wesley Hoedt had it all to do but could only put it across his own line and give Liverpool a lead.
The Egyptian King, as Liverpool fans call him, nearly had his side 2-0 to the good on the 20th minute with some intricate play around the box with Roberto Firmino. Mo Salah was in on goal but took a couple of seconds too long and Cedric Soares’ sliding challenge completely took the winger by surprise and Southampton gave up a corner. Unfortunately for them, this corner then led to Joel Matip’s towering header above opposing centre-back Jannik Vestegaard which found its way past the Southampton goalkeeper and into the net.
A couple of exchanges and crosses into the Liverpool box gave Southampton a little bit of hope but it was in the 42nd minute where they had their biggest chance to get a goal. They managed to get themselves round the back on the left side through Ryan Bertrand and a cross fell into the path of Matt Targett who was free in acres of space but he scuffed his shot. Mo Salah was then played through on the break and nearly made it three but he was forced to take an audacious effort inside the six-yard box with a back-heel which whistled past the post; still no goal for the Egyptian.
The sides were heading into stoppage time but it got worse for Southampton before the break. Salah won a freekick just outside the box and it was Trent Alexander-Arnold and Xherdan Shaqiri stood over it. It was the Swiss interantional who whipped in a scintillating effort at goal with his left foot, it crashed into the bar and dropped from 30 yards out, not quite over the line but Mo Salah won the race to the ball as the Liverpool players pounced and he blasted the ball into the back of the net. It was three up for Liverpool and there wasn’t much Southampton could have done about it.
The second half started with a change for Liverpool, James Milner replaced the best player of the first half, Shaqiri, which left me and other fans wondering why after such a great half for the Swiss international.
It was more of the same in the second half but Southampton saw much more of the ball, holding on to it in key areas. The stats tell a lot of the story from what I saw in the stadium, Liverpool had 12 shots overall, only three of these were second half. Additionally, 64% of Southampton’s passes were made in the second half, again, showing how this half was played.
There really wasn’t much to talk about the second half and it felt a little bit like a training session for both sides, however, alarm bells rang when Virgil Van Dijk was escorted from the pitch by the physios and replaced by Joe Gomez, the budding centre-back, on the 54th minute. Jurgen Klopp later revealed that it was nothing more than bruised ribs which were actually sustained against PSG midweek and it was more precautionary than anything else.
The German’s third and final change, which is something he’s probably not used to in terms of the quality on his bench, was Georgino Wijnaldum, who has had an incredible start to this season for Liverpool, to be replaced by Naby Keita.
Saints sat very deep for the majority of the second half, it seemed the message from manager Mark Hughes was damage limitation which was clearly working, although as mentioned Liverpool were not giving 100% either.
Mo Salah very nearly made it two but his goal was correctly disallowed in the 88th minute, the ball had been bobbling around the area as multiple Liverpool players had efforts at goal blocked and saved before the ball fell into the path of the Egyptian to put it home, he wheeled away in celebration only to find the linesman with his flag up.
To put things into perspective, Alisson made his first save of the evening in the 90th minute, Charlie Austin having a rare crack at goal forcing the Liverpool keeper into a save which he parried out for a corner.
As the final whistle blew, Liverpool were top of the table and Southampton had dropped to 14th. Southampton came with a game plan but the early goal will have crushed those plans within 10 minutes, they did well and came into the came when they could but ultimately Liverpool were far too good.
Still more to come from Liverpool?
100%. Although they’ve managed seven wins from seven, they don’t seem to be clicking as they did at times last season. They are much more solid as a team, from back to front, and have a much better backbone but I personally feel the front three are not quite at the races so far.
What is great is it looks like everyone is chipping in, rather than how it seemed last season where Mo Salah was the be all and end all and without him they struggled to play well, but this season it seems everyone is involved, from the midfield three to the full backs; everyone is involved with and without the ball. I am certainly looking forward to when we sit here and say “wow, Liverpool are at the top of their game now…”. In the next four matches Liverpool face Chelsea twice, Napoli and Manchester City, we will see if we say that by the end of this tough run.
Xheridan Shaqiri – does he fit in?
Before the match when the lineups were announced, I didn’t know what to expect from the Swiss international. I didn’t know how he’d fit into the midfield, what he would bring and ultimately how he would perform on his starting debut. Well, it took about three minutes for me to realise exactly what he’d bring to the table in this Liverpool side, he was drifting in behind the full-backs constantly, he wouldn’t let up at all and it was in the 10th minute where he was in behind again and a better effort may have seen his own name on the scoresheet.
The third goal just before halftime was all about him again, the strike from the free-kick was blissful and pummelled the bar and bounced vertically but it didn’t cross the line until Salah stabbed it home. On another day, he may have had a brace at Anfield. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see him in the second half and I have to say, Liverpool’s performance did drop and his charisma and movement was definitely missed. I expect him to start against Chelsea midweek and I’m looking forward to seeing more.
Southampton missing someone?
In short, yes. Danny Ings has been a great addition to their forward line and has scored three goals so far this season for the Saints in five appearances and only four starts. He scored two big goals in the last two games earning Southampton four points from a possible six. He was definitely missed as Southampton took on Liverpool but will be available again in the coming games where I expect Southampton to pick up form. They have fixtures against Wolves and Everton where Mark Hughes will see these as games where they may be able to pick up points.
Man of the Match: Georginio Wijnaldum
A few players could have earnt this but I’ve gone for Gini Wijnaldum. He was influential in mopping up and being the direct link between the defence and the forward line. The fans showed their appreciation as he seemed to be involved in everything when he came off the pitch, he really is having a storming season and he’s keeping out the likes of new boys Fabinho and Keita at the moment which says a lot about his recent performances.
Liverpool host Chelsea in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night before Chelsea return the favour in the league on Saturday for the televised late kick-off. Liverpool’s schedule is going to be tough over the next couple of weeks but they’ve managed to cope so far. Southampton face a tough trip to highflying Wolves next weekend who have managed to hold Man Utd this weekend, at Old Trafford.