Thursday 20 June 2019

Salah on target as Liverpool cruise past Southampton at Anfield to maintain perfect start

Liverpool 3 Southampton 0

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in action with Southampton's Wesley Hoedt
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in action with Southampton's Wesley Hoedt

Carl Markham

Xherdhan Shaqiri emphatically proved wrong those who doubted his suitability for Liverpool with a starring role in the comfortable 3-0 victory over Southampton.

Some critics questioned his £12million signing from relegated Stoke in the summer but the Switzerland international marked his maiden start for the club with a hand in two first-half goals.

His deflected cross was turned in by Wesley Hoedt for the opener and a brilliant curling free-kick against the crossbar presented Mohamed Salah with a simple close-range effort for the third.

Either side of those, Joel Matip scored his first at Anfield, and his first anywhere since November, as Southampton were pulled apart by a Liverpool side still nowhere near top gear.

A sixth successive league victory - seventh in all competitions - maintained a 100 per cent record and took Jurgen Klopp's side back to the top of the table with an improved goal difference.

Even at this stage that is important as Chelsea, at West Ham on Sunday, had entered the weekend top courtesy of having a goal difference one better.

They still have some way to go to match the club's best start to a campaign, though, as the 1990-91 side won 10 successive competitive matches.

Shaqiri, with just over half-an-hour of action behind him, departed at half-time, denying him the adulation of Anfield but his position as a crowd favourite appears to have already been cemented by these 45 minutes.

Klopp changed his system to accommodate the Swiss, switching to 4-2-3-1 with Salah moved to the centre with Shaqiri playing behind.

It had the desired effect: the 26-year-old was everywhere as he sought to make up for lost time with Roberto Firmino heading his early cross wide.

In the 10th minute Shaqiri cut in from the left to race onto Sadio Mane's perfectly-weighted through-ball, hitting a right-footed shot off Shane Long onto Hoedt with scrambling goalkeeper Alex McCarthy unable to keep it out.

Klopp had dismissed talk of a Salah goalscoring crisis with the Egypt international having drawn a blank in his last three games and the majority of Anfield was willing him to score every time he got in the penalty area.

He was denied by a superbly-timed block from Cedric Soares after combining with Firmino but that led to the second goal as Trent Alexander-Arnold's corner was powerfully headed home by Matip, making his first start since March 31.

It was a something of a bizarre game as Liverpool were nowhere near their best and Southampton, despite looking dreadful, had some threatening moments - mainly from Nathan Redmond, who had a half-claim for a penalty turned down after losing his balance while shooting under pressure from Firmino.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's complete miss with only Alisson to beat from Redmond's cut-back was the catalyst for Liverpool to break quickly; Firmino releasing Salah who turned Jannik Vestergaard to backheel across goal and just wide of the post.

But the Egyptian avoided the worst drought of his short Liverpool career in first-half added time thanks to his anticipation and no shortage of Shaqiri brilliance, netting his 30th goal in his last 31 Anfield appearances.

He was denied a second for offside in the 89th minute after Mario Lamina had cleared James Milner's shot off the line.

The only downside to the afternoon was the departure of Virgil van Dijk with a bruised rib.

However, with the Holland international unlikely to play in the midweek Carabao Cup game at home to Chelsea, the centre-back has a full week to recover before the top-of-the-table clash at Stamford Bridge.

For Southampton it was a third loss in six league matches as boss Mark Hughes failed to improve on his record of just three wins in 24 career league games against Liverpool, having never won at Anfield.

Online Editors

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