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Liverpool dismiss Saints to further extend lead

Liverpool 4 Southampton 0

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Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates scoring his side’s first goal against Southampton yesterday. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates scoring his side’s first goal against Southampton yesterday. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

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Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates scoring his side’s first goal against Southampton yesterday. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Liverpool indulged in a spot of record-equalling as they took another step closer to that coveted league title. Jürgen Klopp's unbeaten team matched Manchester City's record of 20 consecutive Premier League home wins with an ultimately emphatic defeat of Southampton, matching Nottingham Forest's run of 42 top-flight league games unbeaten along the way. The added bonus was the comfort of a 22-point lead at the summit.

Victory looked convincing, and on the evidence of the second half it was as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah scored the goals that maintained Liverpool's imperious Premier League campaign. But this was a fight before it became a procession. For 45 minutes Southampton proved a troublesome opponent. For the second 45, however, they were left trailing in the wake of the world champions.

Ralph Hasenhüttl appeared in a rage throughout the first half but it was not Southampton's performance that caused his angst. The visitors, confident after four consecutive away league wins, initially made life difficult for the runaway leaders with a well-organised display that combined defensive discipline with a persistent threat.

Danny Ings was backed for an England call-up by Klopp in his programme notes and vindicated his former manager's support by denying Joe Gomez or Virgil van Dijk a moment's rest. It was referee Kevin Friend who provoked the Southampton manager's fury with some strange calls, not least when missing a clear back pass from Andy Robertson to his goalkeeper, Alisson. Hasenhüttl may well have combusted had Mohamed Salah scored from the wrongly-awarded Liverpool corner that followed. And when the Egypt international went close with a shot that looped off James Ward-Prowse having appeared to control with his arm in the build-up.

However, Southampton were the beneficiaries of the biggest decision of the first half when Friend - and VAR - rejected Liverpool appeals for a penalty. It followed their best opportunity to break the deadlock when Salah released Van Dijk inside the visitors' area with an inch-perfect delivery from deep. Van Dijk's extravagant back-heel was saved by Alex McCarthy, who also thwarted Roberto Firmino from the rebound, but Salah kept the threat alive and released Henderson to the byline. His chip across goal was arguably too high for Firmino but there was no doubt the Brazilian was grappled by Shane Long on the goalline. No penalty, ruled VAR.

The game was finely balanced until Liverpool discovered their cutting edge and soared away after the interval. McCarthy denied Georginio Wijnaldum and took evasive action to prevent Oxlade-Chamberlain scoring with a deflected effort that was destined for the top corner. But it was far from one-way before the 'The Ox' made the breakthrough with his second goal in two games.

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Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their fourth goal. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their fourth goal. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

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Moussa Djenepo tested Alisson with a powerful drive from 20 yards and Van Dijk took the ball off the toes of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg as the midfielder looked to connect with Ings's inviting cut-back. Ings was denied a goal against his former club with a low shot that struck the heels of Long, while Alisson held a rising drive from the Ireland international and saved at Ings's feet on the stroke of half-time.

Southampton departed buoyant. They were deflated moments after their reappearance for the second half. Oxlade-Chamberlain started the transition from awkward afternoon to comfortable triumph when he shot through a crowd of defenders and found the near corner with McCarthy rooted out of position.

Credit belonged to Andy Robertson and Firmino, however, who engineered the opening for the midfielder with an exquisite back-heel apiece. Southampton, and Nathan Redmond in particular, were wrong-footed by the swift interchange and never recovered.

Firmino was at the heart of Liverpool's second too. The commanding No 9 was unmarked when Trent Alexander-Arnold cleared into his path on the left. Henderson was offside but not interfering at the time. Firmino set course for the Southampton penalty area and, as defenders closed in, pulled the ball back for the onside Henderson to sweep a composed finish past McCarthy.

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp applauds fans after the match. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp applauds fans after the match. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

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Henderson turned provider for the third when threading a fine ball into Salah's path. McCarthy stood his ground for as long as possible but was still well beaten as Salah lifted a nonchalant chip over his head. Chants of "We're going to win the league" reverberated around Anfield. They were only interrupted in celebration of a fourth goal, and Salah's second, when the Egyptian combined with Firmino and bundled the ball home despite the close attentions of Ward-Prowse.

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