Saints demolished by rampant Reds
If this game had been a boxing bout it would have been stopped in the first round as Liverpool destroyed a lack-lustre Southampton side.
Robbie Fowler smashed his second hat-trick of the season and took his total of League goals in his career to an astonishing 101.
It could, and should, have been double figures for Gerard Houllier's men who were just in a different league - and will be next season on this evidence.
Old Evertonian Dave Jones, the Southampton boss, stood transfixed in his dug-out as the nightmare unfolded, knowing there was nothing his outclassed side could do to stop the slaughter.
Fowler, after a season fighting to get himself back from a bad injury, looked back to his best with clinical finishing. Jamie Redknapp and Paul Ince ruled midfield, while Michael Owen scampered around creating space and chances for his team-mates.
For much of the opening spell it was Owen against Southampton's back four and he could have had four in the opening 10 minutes as he terrorised and ultimately softened Southampton up for the kill.
It was hardly surprising when Liverpool finally took the lead after 22 minutes. Stig Bjornebye's left-wing corner was fumbled by keeper Paul Jones, and the ball dropped for Fowler to start the rout by firing in from close range.
Brilliantly worked goal
After 34 minutes Patrik Berger's clever pass put Owen in again, running at Jones. Owen got to the ball first, pushed it wide of the onrushing 'keeper, but could not turn quickly enough to put the ball into the unguarded net.
But a minute later Liverpool did score again. Berger fired over another corner, and Dominic Matteo powered in to crash a superb header into the top corner, his first senior goal in 106 Liverpool matches.
Two minutes later it was three. Owen laid the ball into the box for Fowler to take control and jink his way into a shooting position before firing the ball over the by now grounded Jones, the goal that clinched his century in 175 League matches for the club.
Fowler completed his hat-trick, his second of the season, when he headed home an Owen cross, unmarked 10 yards out, two minutes after the break.
The fifth came after 55 minutes. Redknapp fired in a fierce 25-yard free-kick that ballooned up off the diving Jones for Carragher to follow up and smash home.
At that point Liverpool went to sleep. Egil Ostenstad pulled one back when he collected a pass from substitute Matthew Le Tissier and with Phil Babb standing off, drove his shot in off the far post.
However, Liverpool put an end to all this nonsense with a brilliantly worked sixth goal.
Babb burst from defence and put Fowler away on the left, and when his cross came low into the box, Owen finally got his name on the scoresheet.
With the United game on the horizon, Owen and Ince were replaced by Karlheinz Riedle and David Thompson. The little midfielder scored the seventh within a minute of coming on when he ran in to fire home after Jones fumbled another long-range shot after 73 minutes.
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