By Matthew Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez
Goals from Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino saw Liverpool claim all three points for Jürgen Klopp’s men as they capped off a week which saw them lift the UEFA Super Cup with victory over Southampton at St Mary’s.
Despite injury concerns following an altercation with a fan after Wednesdays victory, Adrian started in between the posts for the Reds. Klopp then made three changes to the Super Cup winning side, bringing Gini Wijnaldum, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino back into the starting XI.
Liverpool started the game rather lacklustre and it was Southampton who had the first chance of the game through Maya Yoshida.
The Reds, who were temporarily a man down after James Milner went off for stitches, lined up in their typical zonal marking formation to defend a Southampton corner. A perfectly floated in ball by James Ward-Prowse found Yoshida free four yards out and the defender connected sweetly.
Fortunately for the Reds, the headed effort went relatively straight at their stand-in Spanish goalkeeper, who reacted quickly to parry the ball away.
Southampton continued to press Liverpool as the half went on with Adrian again being tested after the Saints broke down the left wing. Nathan Redmond and Ryan Bertrand linked up well before Liverpool’s goalkeeper had to reach low to palm a cross clear of his goal.
Despite their dominance over Liverpool, Southampton ultimately ended the half ruing their lack of clinical finishing as Mané fired Liverpool ahead seconds before the break.
A throw in down the left hand side saw Wijnaldum give the ball to Milner who in turn found Mané on the edge of the area. The Senegalese wideman quickly shifted the ball past Jan Bednarek before unleashing a lethal curling effort into the top left corner of Angus Gunn’s net. Klopp’s men finished the half 1-0 up.
Despite a less than impressive first-half performance, the Reds started the second half like a completely different side, repeatedly threatening the Southampton goal within the opening minutes of the half.
Wave after wave of Liverpool pressure repeatedly pinned back the Saints as Klopp’s men edged closer to a second.
A classic Liverpool breakaway almost saw Firmino double the lead after he connected with a perfectly weighted through ball by Mané. A first time hit with inside of his boot had Gunn scrambling, but unfortunately for the Brazilian the ball trickled inches wide.
It looked like Liverpool were going to rue their wasted chances but a mistake by Bednarek let Mané in and Liverpool quickly doubled the lead.
The Senegalese goal-scorer turned provider this time laying the ball off to Firmino who did the rest. The Brazilian took the ball in his stride, beating Jannik Vestergaard before unleashing a reverse shot into the bottom right corner of the net. After 71 minutes the Reds were 2-0 up and cruising.
Two chances in quick succession followed for the Reds as they almost made it three through Mané and Robertson. The Senegalese winger rose highest to head home but Gunn reacted quickly to palm it away. Minutes later Mané was involved again, this time feeding his left back who rifled an effort which stung the gloves of the Southampton keeper yet again.
Liverpool were comfortably dominating the game, but a howler from Adrian opened the door for Southampton with mere minutes to go. The keeper took too much time on the ball and cheekily attempted to play a pass whilst being closed down by Danny Ings. The former Liverpool front man got in the way of the attempted pass with the ball deflecting into the net.
It almost got worse for Liverpool moments later as the Southampton goal-scorer missed an absolute sitter. A low cross by Valery flew across goal with the English striker swinging at the loose ball but failing to connect.
The final 10 minutes of the game became a scrappy affair as Southampton pressed and Liverpool tried to cling on. Fortunately for Klopp, his team managed to dig in and claim all three points in a hard fought victory at the end of a tiresome week.
Liverpool’s next game sees them play host to Unai Emery’s Arsenal on Saturday, August 24th, this time with a full week to prepare.