Mohamed Salah back on his throne to leave Man City cursing again
James Pearce on Liverpool's come-from-behind victory at Southampton as Reds go top of Premier League again
12:29, 6 APR 2019Updated12:30, 6 APR 2019
It was a huge victory for Liverpool at Southampton as the Reds triumphed 3-1 to move back to the top of the Premier League.
Shane Long put the hosts in head, before Naby Keita equalised before half-time with his first goal for the club.
Mohamed Salah then put the Reds ahead with just under 10 minutes on the clock before captain Jordan Henderson wrapped up the points.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
With the clock ticking and Liverpool in desperate need of inspiration on the south coast, their Egyptian King stepped up and delivered.
The longest drought of Mohamed Salah's Reds career was ended in sensational fashion as he ran half the length of St Mary's to write another unforgettable chapter in this thrilling title challenge.
What a way for Salah to enter the record books as the fastest player in the club's history to reach a half century of league goals for the Reds.
His stunning individual effort – his first goal in nine appearances - triggered wild celebrations in front of the jubilant travelling Kop.
“Liverpool, top of the league,” they roared as Manchester City were knocked off the summit .
Once again Jurgen Klopp's side found a way to win when operating nowhere near their best.
Once again there was late drama as they showcased their powers of recovery to turn a potentially devastating stalemate into a priceless victory.
Once again Pep Guardiola was left cursing at his TV as Liverpool simply refuse to give up the fight.
The bottle of this team Klopp has assembled is staggering. As the stakes keep getting higher, the size of the cojones on display are immense.
There's a powerful sense of unity, spirit and belief – coupled with an abundance of quality - which is powering them towards the finish line.
Whether it's enough to secure the Holy Grail only time will tell. Relying on City to slip up, Liverpool aren't masters of their own destiny.
All they can do is take care of their own business and they keep on ticking that box. City have the more difficult hurdles left to clear.
This victory – the fifth time the Reds have come from behind to win a league game this season – extended their unbeaten run to 14 matches and guaranteed a top-four finish.
It's a mark of just how far Liverpool have come under Klopp that Champions League qualification for a third successive season will barely get a mention.
All eyes are on the big prize and their 82-point haul with five matches to go is remarkable. Only twice in the Premier League era have they ever surpassed that tally. This is a truly special team.
It was fitting that captain Jordan Henderson had the final word as he scored his first goal for the Reds since September 2017. The outpouring of emotion showed exactly what it meant to the long-serving midfielder, who produced an all-action cameo.
The introduction of Henderson and Milner in the second half helped turn the contest Liverpool's way as Klopp got his changes spot on.
It was also a night to cherish for Naby Keita, who finally got off the mark after 1,423 minutes of action for the Reds to cancel out Shane Long's opener.
What a shot in the arm for the £52.5million midfielder who has struggled to make an impact in his debut season.
“The mighty Liverpool”, was how the PA announcer billed Klopp's side. Their visit was marked with Southampton handing out 25,000 flags to home fans and putting on a pre-match fireworks display.
However, the Reds failed to live up that lofty billing early on as they handed Ralph Hasenhuttl's men the initiative.
Klopp had opted for fresh legs with Fabinho and Keita recalled at the expense of Henderson and Milner, but Liverpool were slow out of the blocks as they made a succession of careless errors.
Considering their proud defensive record, the Reds looked strangely vulnerable and found themselves behind inside nine minutes.
Ryan Bertrand's cross was flicked on by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Andy Robertson misjudged it and Long had time and space to control and hammer home.
Liverpool should have quickly restored parity when Salah picked out Sadio Mane six yards out. But he nodded too close to Angus Gunn and Keita stuck the rebound into the side netting.
The Reds continued to cause problems for themselves by giving the ball away cheaply in dangerous areas. Alisson Becker gave Trent Alexander-Arnold a pass he didn't want and Bertrand's low centre somehow evaded Long with Virgil van Dijk sticking the ball over his own bar.
The alarm bells were ringing but, belatedly, the Reds settled and started to exert some pressure of their own. The front three came to life with their clever movement and the hosts found themselves pinned back.
Nine minutes before the break Liverpool were level. There was a slice of good fortune in the build up as Salah looked marginally offside when he latched on to Alexander-Arnold's lofted pass.
But there was nothing lucky about what followed. Alexander-Arnold retrieved Robertson's deep cross and whipped in a beauty from the right.
Keita stole in at the far post to power a header inside Gunn's near post.
The Guinean midfielder, who repaid Klopp's faith in handing him a first league start for two months, celebrated by riding on the back of close friend Mane, who has helped keep his spirits high during a tough period.
The interval came at a bad time for Liverpool. They regressed with Southampton looking the more threatening early in the second half.
Fabinho endured an erratic night as his errors put the Reds on the back foot. After Yan Valery had picked the Brazilian's pocket, Nathan Redmond nearly stole in between Joel Matip and Alisson.
Fabinho was then left on his backside by Redmond with the visitors indebted to Matip's block.
Liverpool broke off the shackles with Keita playing a slick one-two with Mane. Keita burst into the box before being sent sprawling by Maya Yoshida's sliding challenge.
It was a nailed on spot-kick but to the Reds' disgust referee Paul Tierney waved away appeals for a penalty. Replays showed that there was clearly contact.
Klopp has stood accused of not being proactive enough with his substitutions at times this season but on this occasion he didn't waste time trying to put things right.
Before the hour mark there was a double change with Henderson and Milner on for Wijnaldum and Alexander-Arnold. It did the trick.
The injection of experience, composure and energy instantly improved the Reds. Keita fed Firmino, who lifted the ball over Jannik Vestergaard only for Yoshida to thwart him.
As a succession of promising moves came to nothing, anxiety levels were growing but the perfect release arrived 10 minutes from time.
A Southampton corner was cleared with Henderson nodding into the path of Salah, who was loitering on the edge of the centre circle inside his own half.
The Egyptian raced off towards goal and as Bertrand backed off, Salah ignored the options around him and coolly planted a left-footer in the bottom corner. Fifty league goals in just 69 games.
A nervy finale was avoided as the on-rushing Henderson converted Firmino's cross to get the party started.
What a night. Salah is back on this throne. Liverpool are back looking down on the rest.
Southampton: Gunn, Yoshida, Vestergaard (Austin 83), Bednarek, Valery, Romeu (Armstrong 83), Hojbjerg, Ward-Prowse, Bertrand, Redmond, Long (Sims 61).
Not used: McCarthy, Stephens, Gallagher, Targett.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold (Henderson 59), Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum (Milner 59), Keita (Lovren 88), Mane, Salah, Firmino
Not used: Mignolet, Moreno, Shaqiri, Origi.
Referee: Paul Tierney
Goals: Long 9, Keita 36, Salah 80, Henderson 86.
Bookings: Bednarek, Bertrand, Salah, Robertson, Henderson.
Man of the match: Mohamed Salah. Delivered when Liverpool really needed him.
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