The Reds picked up a crucial victory on the south coast to cement third place and sling the race for second spot wide open.
The deadly duo of Firmino and Salah did the damage as the pair linked up twice in the first-half for two excellent goals which proved enough for victory.
It was a professional performance from the Reds just when it was needed, and Jurgen Klopp will be delighted to have seen his side cruise to a big three points.
Here’s how the media assessed a very pleasing win for Liverpool.
Reporters were impressed by the professional and controlled nature of the performance
The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce labelled the display “an accomplished team performance”:
An unexpected extra night in their own beds preceded an accomplished team performance which oozed discipline, control and a sprinkling of pure class.
Our own Karl Matchett was impressed by the improvement in Liverpool’s professionalism to see out victory:
Southampton, however, were snuffed out completely.
Calm in possession, organised off the ball and first to every loose pass, the Reds looked much more assured in the second half and fully deserved the end scoreline.
The Independent’s Tom Prentki was among a few journalists to assess the display and the manner of it as the “perfect” preparation for Wednesday’s clash with Porto:
For Liverpool, this was the perfect way to prepare for Wednesday night’s trip to Portugal. Klopp’s side did not have to overexert themselves on the South Coast and will fancy themselves to score in the away leg.
Post-match reports featured plenty of praise for the dazzling Firmino – Salah partnership
Matchett labelled the combination the “Premier League’s best attacking pairing”:
Salah and Firmino are the Premier League‘s best attacking pairing, with the goal return and combination play to prove it.
The Liverpool Echo’s Kristian Walsh believes Salah’s arrival has been key to bringing out the best out of Firmino:
There were glimpses of this improvement under the German boss in his first two seasons, but Salah’s arrival has helped unlock Firmino’s full potential.
With the Egyptian possessing ability which instils a sense of panic in any defence, it allows Firmino to float along the lines, pick up loose balls and become a 90-minute irritant.
Richard Jolly, writing for Yahoo.com, praised Firmino for his improvement in front of goal, and assessed how the Brazilian has justified Klopp’s decision to make him first choice striker:
He has not reduced his efforts for his colleagues to become a better goalscorer. He has simply improved in a way to justify Jurgen Klopp’s decision to install him as the first-choice forward long before his goal-return was as good.
ESPN’s Glenn Price believes Firmino is rapidly developing into one of “Europe’s most complete strikers”:
But his goal at St Mary’s on the weekend took his overall season tally to 20 and, with the Brazilian international having increased his scoring output every season under Klopp’s management, the signs point to him continuing to become one of Europe’s most complete forwards.
As expected, Virgil van Dijk’s performance was heavily discussed and the media were impressed with the Dutchman
The Guardian’s Stuart James labelled van Dijk’s performance “near faultless”, and particularly noted the composure the centre-back brought to defence:
A fifth appearance for Liverpool in all competitions delivered a first clean sheet and a near faultless performance from the world’s most expensive defender, who was a model of composure throughout and never remotely affected by the abuse that rained down from the stands.
ESPN’s Dave Usher praised van Dijk’s organisation and composure in possession:
All eyes were on him as he returned to his former club but the defender took everything in stride and was a picture of composure. He organised and cajoled his teammates and was cool in possession.
Turning discussion to van Dijk’s partner, Matchett felt Joel Matip didn’t convince in his audition to prove why he should be the preferred option, and thinks Klopp may need to buy a suitable partner:
Misplaced passes, missed headers and a lack of general decisiveness mean the Cameroonian surely can’t be seen as the preferred second in command at this stage.
Looking ahead to summer, it’s entirely plausible that the Reds will be back in the market for yet another defender, one to parter Van Dijk on a more regular basis, unless Lovren can come up with far more consistency than he has managed thus far.
Certain reporters offered alternative thoughts from the victory
This team are equally adept at flooding forward on the counter-attack or pinning opponents so deep that they eventually crack.
Pearce thought the Reds should have won by a more comfortable margin:
The only criticism was the chances Liverpool squandered as the margin of victory should have been much more emphatic.
However, the impressive display by Karius at St Mary’s will surely prompt Klopp to rethink his approach, particularly as the European competition represents Liverpool’s last hope of a trophy this season.
Will Klopp now risk bringing back Mignolet for such an pivotal game on Wednesday? If he does bank on Karius in Portugal, it could well signal the end of Mignolet’s Anfield career given the Belgian’s desire to play regularly.
Usher felt Klopp got his tactical plan spot, highlighting how the change to a counter-attack approach worked well:
Klopp set his team up to play a certain style and he got the result, so job done. Liverpool are usually more on the front foot but the plan of allowing Southampton to come forward and then exploiting the space left behind worked well.
Price noted a positive in how the Reds are looking fresh after Klopp’s winter rotation, as rivals show signs of the opposite:
Heavy rotation around the festive period was designed for the purpose that Liverpool could fire on all cylinders when winter turned into spring and, while Man City are out of sight, that period arrives as Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal show signs of faltering.
Finally, Walsh challenged Liverpool to push on secure second place, highlighting how this would show the undeniable progress made under Klopp:
Yet it would, in some small way, show the progress made under Klopp. Eighth in his first season, fourth in his second; though top four should be considered a success league-wise, a runners-up spot, and being the best-of-the-rest in the wake of Manchester City‘s march, is no mean feat.
It would also show potential summer incomings the path this side are on.