A perfect away performance made sure Liverpool is still in the hunt for a top four finish, and even more so now. It was not a vintage display attack-wise but a stubborn one defensively. We rode our luck aswell and were effective. The 2-0 win in Southampton was pleasing in several ways.
Liverpool had their backs to the wall ahead of the Premier League clash yesterday. A defeat would probably have pushed us out of the top four tussle but the hard-fought victory put us right in the middle of it. With twelve matches to go the table reads: 3rd: Arsenal 48 points, 4th: Manchester United 47, 5th: Southampton 46, 6th: Liverpool 45, 7th: Tottenham 44.
It can hardly be more tight and exciting than this. Just four points separating the teams in 3rd and 7th. Clubs in 3rd and 4th qualifies for Champions League next season and it´s possible Liverpool is one of them. Who would have thought that in November when we lost three league games on the trot and were languishing in 12th place in the table. Not me, that´s for sure.
Happier days now. The win at St Mary´s was our tenth league game on the spin without defeat. In these ten fixtures the Reds have collected 24 points out of a possible 30. If we maintain that form the points tally after the last game will be 74 and a top four finish more than likely.
The match against a very good Southampton side had two faces. In the first half the hosts threatened to breach our defence on numerous occasions. They should have been awarded a penalty when Joe Allen tripped one of their players and our goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had to make a couple of terrific saves. Liverpool was a tad lucky at times but not so much with the goal. It was an exceptional execution from Philippe Coutinho, a 30-yard screamer contender for goal of the season. It had me screaming my lungs off.
We defended a bit naive in the first half, letting the home side placing balls behind our back line. Southampton dominated and we couldn´t get any attacking play going.
In the second half we turned things around. Liverpool players pressed much harder and prevented Southampton from passing the ball around on the deck which restricted them to long high punts easily handled by our now more deep-lying defence. After the break I never felt that we would concede, in the first half it felt like it could happen everytime the home side was in possession.
The main resaon for the win was the hard work all Liverpool players offered. Everyone fought hard for every ball. The Reds acted as if it was an away game in Europe, soaking upp pressure, playing tough physically and waiting for the opposition to make mistakes to hit them on the break. Southampton was really good defensively and didn´t make any errors for a long time but when they finally did it Liverpool pounced and wrapped it up when Raheem Sterling made it 2-0. After that it was, if not plain sailing, but a secure trip towards three points.
Most encouraging thing player-wise was the effort from stand-in captain Jordan Henderson. He acted like a true skipper, bossing midfield, hitting perfect passes, keeping the ball in the team, breaking up play and conducting the well-tuned Liverpool orchestra. He has been below par too much this season, this was the type of performance the vice-captain should be offering everytime. Keep it up Hendo!
Here are my ratings for the Reds who participated in the 26th league match of the season (on a scale from 1 to 10):
GK Simon Mignolet 7.
Another assured performance. He dominated in the air and made some great saves.
RB Dejan Lovren 4.
Took care of his defensive job but hoofed the ball too much.
CB Martin Skrtel 4.
Won everything in the air but was slow to react a couple of times.
LB Emre Can 4.
Better when playing on the right side. A decent showing.
RWB Jordon Ibe 4.
Always a threat when on the ball but was not involved enough.
DM Joe Allen 6.
Didn´t miss a pass and was well placed to constantly break up play.
CM Jordan Henderson 8.
An almost complete performance. Did a lot of good things during 90 minutes.
LWB Lazar Markovic 3.
Not comfortable as a wing-back, not good enough defensively.
RF Adam Lallana 4.
Mixing fine tricks with meaningsless efforts. Must up his game.
CF Raheem Sterling 3.
Missed passes all day and tries too many fancy things. The goal forgives some.
LF Philippe Coutinho 5.
A magnificent goal to savour for a long time. Southampton dominated possession and therefore limiting his attacking actions.
LWB Alberto Moreno 5. (Replaced Lazar Markovic after 45 mins).
Is always keen, runs a lot and interacts with his teammates. Improving all the time.
CF Daniel Sturridge 3. (Replaced Adam Lallana after 62 mins).
Looked rusty again and was too selfish on a couple of occasions.
RWB Glen Johnson 3. (Replaced Jordon Ibe after 75 mins).
Did his job, nothing more.
The lifeline Liverpool threw themselves yesterday need to be used to full effect. In other words, we must build on the victory versus the Saints and keep playing with determination, never-say-die-attitude and sheer belief for another twelve fixtures. Then the season can end on a happy note, totally unexpected a few months ago. Next up in the league is reigning champions Manchester City at Anfield. Last season we beat them 3-2 at home after a winning goal from Philippe Coutinho. Another cracker, like the one yesterday, from the Brazilian is most welcome especially if it´s the winner. Do it Phil, please, and make sure:
We Go Again.