Philippe Coutinho stunner helps to sink Southampton at St Mary’s
The race to finish in the top four is certainly hotting up, as Liverpool are making a late season charge after now beating high-flyers Southampton 2-0 away, putting them just a point behind the Saints and two off fourth-placed Manchester United.
It seems a total of five clubs are vying for the last two Champions League spots, with only four points separating third to seventh.
There was a frantic start to the match at St Mary’s, and inside the opening minute Emre Can appeared to foul debutant Serb Filip Djuricic in the box, but Kevin Friend waved protests away.
But just over a minute later, Philippe Coutinho scored an absolte stunner from 30 yards out that went in off the bar. It surely one of the goals of the season so far, and the early lead allowed Liverpool to sit back for much of the first half.
Southampton were soon on the attack, though, and straight from kick-off had another penalty shout turned down. Djuricic was the man felled again, this time by Joe Allen, but play continued and much-maligned keeper Simon Mignolet saved brilliantly from Eljero Elia in the same passage of play.
The tempo slowed dramatically after the first five minutes, with both teams seemingly more organised and settled.
After half an hour, Liverpool perhaps should’ve had a penalty, after former Saints star Dejan Lovren slid in on Raheem Sterling, but again nothing was given.
Just before the break, Elia latched on to a brilliant ball by Nathaniel Clyne to go one-on-one with the keeper, but Mignolet came charging out to palm away the Dutchman’s attempted chip. Replays seemed to suggest that the Belgian was just outside his area, after the ball ricocheted off his chest, but again play went on.
Southampton’s lack of luck continued, this time from the two corners in the minutes following that save, as they arguably could’ve had another penalty after Lovren handled in the area.
Shortly after, Mignolet had to be alert for a shot that came at him, after a scramble in he box, and the Reds survived the opening half despite being second best.
It took five minutes until the first chance after the break, but Graziano Pelle’s effort, after a fantastic build up from his teammates, was weak and wide.
Senegal striker Sadio Mane came on for James Ward-Prowse with just over 30 minutes to go, as Ronald Koeman was desperate to find a goal. The forward could’ve made an immediate impact after chesting down in the box, but his shot was blocked by Martin Skrtel.
Raheem Sterling effectively won the game for Liverpool, though, after his close-range shot in the 73rd minute found a way past Fraser Forster, following some sloppy defending.
Dusan Tadic, a substitute for compatriot Djuricic, had a chance from a free-kick soon after, but his low shot was straight at Mignolet.
With minutes to go, meanwhile, another sub, this time Daniel Sturridge, had a chance, but his shot was saved. The Englishman had another go in injury time, but his effort deflected for a corner.
After a slow end to the game, the referee blew the final whistle, to extend Liverpool’s unbeaten record in the Premier League to 10 matches.
It was certainly a happy return for Lovren and Adam Lallana to their former club, despite the former looking shaky throughout and the latter being subbed off.