Liverpool signed off with a 3-1 win at home to Southampton in their final Premier League match ahead of the upcoming World Cup on Saturday afternoon.
Che Adams cancelled out Roberto Firmino’s opener as both sides found the net with a pair of set piece goals in the opening ten minutes. Darwin Nunez took advantage of Southampton’s aggressive but chaotic defending to nab a first-half brace.
Subconsciously or otherwise, Liverpool eased off the throttle after the interval, scarcely threatening a four until a final flurry while relying upon the continuation of Alisson’s supreme shot-stopping form.
Firmino delivered a pointed riposte to his World Cup squad snub. Peeling away from the throng of jostling bodies at a set piece, the Brazilian looped a header over his shoulder. The ball lazily arced towards the bottom corner but there wasn’t enough time for Gavin Bazunu to lumber along his line, stumbling over his own feet as Firmino gave Liverpool a sixth-minute lead.
Just 186 seconds had elapsed before Adams converted a Southampton set piece. Wriggling away from Joe Gomez, Adams glanced James Ward-Prowse’s wicked delivery beyond Alisson, becoming the first Southampton player to score a Premier League goal at Anfield since Sadio Mane in 2015.
The man ostensibly tasked with replacing Mane for Liverpool this season had the Reds back ahead after 21 minutes. Liverpool tossed a flurry of crosses into the box before Harvey Elliott hit the right note with a delicate ball tickled into Nunez’s stride. There is so much fury and chaos about his game but Nunez cushioned a composed volley into the far corner.
Nathan Jones had only been afforded one training session after replacing Ralph Hasenhuttl but certainly got the ‘lift in energy’ he called for pre-match. However, the front-foot nature of Southampton’s display created a helter-skelter exchange as Liverpool sprinted forward once the first wave of pressure was broken.
Bazunu was forced into two smothering stops on either side of Nunez’s goal but was beaten by the Uruguayan again on the cusp of half-time.
The hosts extended their advantage with a brilliantly constructed team move which exploited the strengths of Liverpool’s mobile front line (and the widening gaps in Southampton’s reconfigured rearguard). Firmino dropped off the frontline, sliding a through-ball for Andy Robertson to bound onto as Liverpool’s widest player on the left. The Scot fizzed a low pass into the box which Nunez gleefully gobbled up.
Jones shuffled his pack for the final half-hour, turning away from the back three he deployed regularly at Luton Town for a 4-3-3. Within moments of the alteration, Mohamed Elyounoussi – now in a more central role – and Samuel Edozie, part of Jones’ triple substitution, had efforts from inside Liverpool’s box snuffed out by Alisson’s sprawling frame.
Alisson was forced into another miraculous stop in the final 15 minutes. Ainsley Maitland-Niles came off the bench to pick out Adams seven yards from goal but Alisson flung out a meaty paw to rebuff the downward header.
Brazil’s number one would not be beaten for a second time, condemning Southampton to a spot inside the relegation zone this Christmas as Liverpool climbed, however temporarily, into the lofty realms of sixth.
GK: Alisson – 7/10 – Hardly at fault for the concession of Adams’ close-range header but made a characteristic burst of crucial stops in the second half.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 5/10 – Lurked on the peripheries of the contest.
CB: Joe Gomez – 4/10 – Allowed Adams to sneak away from him for Southampton’s equaliser far too easily.
CB: Virgil van Dijk – 7/10 – Up against his former employers, Van Dijk was as unflappable as ever.
LB: Andy Robertson – 8/10 – Bounding up and down the left flank at will, Robertson’s passing was a probing threat from open play and dead balls.
CM: Harvey Elliott – 6/10 – Tiptoeing around midfield, Elliott rarely misjudged the weight of his often penetrative passes. Faded after the interval.
CM: Fabinho – 5/10 – A little lackadaisical at times but swept up at the base of midfield without much fuss.
CM: Thiago Alcantara – 6/10 – Everything went through Thiago as he was desperate to have as many touches of the ball – regularly with the sole of his boot – as possible.
RW: Mohamed Salah – 5/10 – Flitting in and out of the match, Salah struggled to make a lasting impression on proceedings.
ST: Roberto Firmino – 8/10 – Wreaking havoc as he floated menacingly between the lines.
LW: Darwin Nunez – 8/10 – Scarcely allowed Southampton’s beleaguered backline rest, driving in off the left flank.
SUB: James Milner (68′ for Elliott) – 5/10 – On his 600th Premier League appearance, Milner stiffened up Liverpool’s midfield.
SUB: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (75′ for Firmino) – N/A
SUB: Kostas Tsimikas (86′ for Robertson) – N/A
SUB: Nathaniel Phillips (87′ for Alexander-Arnold) – N/A
SUB: Fabio Carvalho (87′ for Nunez) – N/A
Manager: Jurgen Klopp – 5/10 – Watching on from the stands, the suspended Klopp had a great view to see his side produce a clinical first half and benefit from Southampton’s lack of cutting edge after the break.
GK: Gavin Bazunu – 5/10 – A display which incorporated interventions at both ends of the quality scale.
CB: Armel Bella-Kotchap – 3/10 – Caught ball-watching as he failed to spot the rather sizeable Nunez wandering into Southampton’s box.
CB: Duje Caleta-Car – 4/10 – Booked within the opening five minutes for one of the few challenges that even remotely set Liverpool’s forwards off their stride.
CB: Mohammed Salisu – 5/10 – Increasingly struggled to deal with Salah’s pace as the second half wore on.
RWB: Mohamed Elyounoussi – 4/10 – Not entirely committed to closing down Robertson, Elyounoussi was often and obviously caught in two minds.
CM: James Ward-Prowse – 6/10 – Underlined his revered reputation as a set-piece expert with an excellent first-half assist.
CM: Romeo Lavia – 6/10 – Remained calm amid the thunderous flood of bodies in midfield with a performance which belied his 18 years of age.
CM: Stuart Armstrong – 4/10 – Forced to cover a lot of ground laterally in a three-man midfield stretched across the pitch.
LWB: Romain Perraud – 5/10 – Continued to push forward even when Southampton shuffled into a back-four after the interval.
ST: Adam Armstrong – 5/10 – Enthusiastically buzzed into a press without much reward.
ST: Che Adams – 6/10 – Took his goal well but was left to feed on scraps thereafter.
SUB: Theo Walcott (59′ for S Armstrong) – 5/10
SUB: Samuel Edozie (59′ for A Armstrong) – 5/10
SUB: Ainsley Maitland-Niles (59′ for Caleta-Car) – 5/10
SUB: Lyanco (73′ for Bella-Kotchap) – N/A
SUB: Joe Aribo (82′ for Lavia) – N/A
Manager: Nathan Jones – 5/10 – There were green shoots amid the sea of red which swarmed his side. Not afraid to change the system mid-game but will benefit from the upcoming mini-preseason to calibrate his side’s press.