“The mark of champions” – Media on Klopp’s subs, Salah’s goal and Reds’ win

6 April 2019

The media lauded Liverpool’s comeback and Jurgen Klopp’s changes while praising Mohamed Salah’s decisive goal in the 3-1 win at Southampton.


The Reds’ powers of recovery shone through again as Klopp’s side battled back for a vital three points to return to top of the Premier League.

Naby Keita’s first Liverpool goal, Salah’s 50th league strike and Jordan Henderson’s close-range finish overturned Shane Long’s early opener to claim victory.

The Reds weren’t at their devastating best at St Mary’s, but most crucially, a route to victory was found yet again with a superb comeback that cemented belief that the title will return to Anfield.

Here’s how the media assessed a huge three points for the table-topping Reds.

 

Reporters lauded Liverpool’s powers of recovery again and felt this was a potentially defining three points…

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Friday, April 5, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson celebrates scoring the third goal with team-mates during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at the St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mirror’s Alex Smith explained how this feels like a decisive moment as the comeback will provide belief to produce the unbeaten end to the season needed:

This was a test of the Reds’ nerves against a rejuvenated Southampton side and they passed with flying colours…in the end.

It could be the result to catapult them to an unbeaten end to the season, which they will surely need to topple City.

The Guardian’s Dominic Fifield assessed it as the sort of result that provides belief that “the long wait is almost over”:

It is nights like these which can make the difference.

[…]

Emerging from contests this tight will only pep belief that the long wait is almost over.

Our man Henry Jackson thought the comeback showed the “mark of champions”:

The way in which the Reds ground out yet another victory sums up Klopp and this group of players, though, as they produced a comeback that was the mark of champions.

The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce lauded the “staggering” bottle Liverpool have shown in the title race:

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.

Fifield assessed that it is Liverpool’s power to deal with set-backs, rather than the usual dazzling attacking play, that has defined the season:

If this is to be Liverpool’s year then it may actually prove to have been an underlying resilience and ability to bounce back from set-backs within games, rather than a dazzling forward line or stingy defence, that sees them home.

The BBC’s Mantej Mann provided some interesting stats on the Reds’ never-say-die attitude and feels the “undying spirit” could carry Klopp’s men to glory:

Liverpool have scored 20 goals in the final 15 minutes of games this season, more than any other side, and they have also won 16 points from losing positions.

If the Reds are to deliver a first league title since 1990, their undying spirit at the death could tip the balance in their favour.

Standard Sport’s David Lynch thinks that if Liverpool do win the league, this recent run of comebacks and finding a way to victory will prove the decisive factor:

If it is Liverpool lifting the league championship in May, this relentless run of wins will have much to do with it.

 

The media were not too impressed with the performance but felt Klopp’s selection and tactical gambles paid off…

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Friday, April 5, 2019: Liverpool's manager J¸rgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at the St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Writing for Goal.com, Neil Jones thought Liverpool’s first 20 minutes was the worst the Reds have played all season:

For 20 minutes, Klopp’s team were as bad as they have been all season, unable to pass, unable to defend, unable to settle.

Fifield felt Liverpool’s right side was the main problem, while they failed to cope against the pace of Nathan Redmond and Yan Valery on opposite flanks:

Klopp’s side had struggled horribly to cope with Southampton’s intensity in those breathless initial exchanges, as Ryan Bertrand and Nathan Redmond tore down the left flank and Yan Valery mirrored their ambition down the right.

Jackson felt the Reds’ starting midfield trio failed to control the game:

Barring Keita’s maiden goal for the Reds, he and his midfield team-mates struggled, failing to control the game and being overrun by the Saints.

Lynch thought Klopp was bold with the ‘1-2’ set-up in midfield but admitted it was also key to allowing enough bodies forward to break Southampton‘s resolve:

Klopp had clearly instructed his players to leave Fabinho as the sole pivot, with Keita and Georginio Wijnaldum pushing on to give Southampton something to think about. That resulted in too many men ahead of the ball as the hosts went long and picked up seemingly every second ball during their best period of the game.

[…]

These are the risks managers sometimes need to take, and Klopp will be delighted this one came off.

The Mail’s Karren Gill thought Keita “looked like a rabbit caught in headlights” but felt the goal repaid Klopp’s faith and could prove a turning point in his Reds career:

At times Keita looked like a rabbit caught in headlights at St Mary’s Stadium. There was too much carelessness in possession, too much jogging without purpose in the centre of the pitch.

[…]

He got his goal against Southampton and it led to a Liverpool win, keeping them in this nail-biter of a title race. For Klopp, that made his rare selection worthwhile.

Meanwhile, Jackson was particularly disappointed with Gini Wijnaldum’s display and thinks the Dutchman is in need of an overdue rest as his form deteriorates:

We are now witnessing the kind of anonymous performances he used to be accused of, and not in that effective under-the-radar way he can sometimes master.

[…]

In fairness to Wijnaldum, he looks like a player who needs a break, having already made 38 appearances in an extremely taxing role, and Klopp explained after the game he had “felt the intensity of the season.”

 

There was far more praise for Klopp’s in-game changes and the impacts of Henderson and James Milner…

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Friday, April 5, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson celebrates scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at the St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Pearce thought the introduction of the captain and vice-captain was the key moment in swinging the game in Liverpool’s favour:

The introduction of Henderson and Milner in the second half helped turn the contest Liverpool’s way as Klopp got his changes spot on.

Jackson lauded the impact of the duo, assessing that “both were exceptional” in transforming the game:

Both were exceptional during their cameos, showing exactly why Jurgen Klopp has so much faith in them, as they completely turned the game on its head.

[…]

It was a true captain and vice-captain’s performance from the pair.

ESPN’s Nick Miller highlighted the control that Henderson brought to midfield as the game-changing factor:

Sure, he might slow down play and opt for caution more often than you’d like, but he brings control and certainty. Klopp’s Liverpool need that, and his introduction was the turning point of the game.

The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe suggested Henderson’s cameo may well have been his best performance in a Liverpool shirt:

He [Henderson] may have played his finest 31 minutes in a Liverpool jersey here, completed with the crucial third.

 

The watching journalists commended Salah for returning to goal-scoring form at a crucial time…

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Friday, April 5, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at the St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jackson praised Salah for showing a trait of truly great players by delivering a decisive contribution at the key moment despite indifferent form:

But the truly great players turn up in times of need, as we have seen from so many Liverpool legends, from Kenny Dalglish to Steven Gerrard.

With 10 minutes remaining and with the Reds’ Premier League title bid looking set to take a hit, Salah delivered.

Salah’s decisive strike showed exactly why Klopp has kept faith with the Egyptian despite his drought, according to the Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle:

But when those qualities are combined with such a cool finish, you can see why the Reds boss has unshakeable faith in the forward. He, and Liverpool, were rewarded here.

The Independent’s Jack Pitt-Brooke thinks Salah’s strike could be “one of the great decisive goals” if the Reds go on to win the league:

One of the greatest moments yet in this unforgettable season, and one that showed that however Liverpool are playing, it does not especially matter much anymore.

[…]

As a moment of drama it was up there with the Toby Alderweireld own goal, the Divock Origi winner, the James Milner penalty, or any of those late events that have marked this title charge. And if they do it then this will be remembered as one of the great decisive goals that won the league.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Friday, April 5, 2019: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates 3-1 victory over Southampton after the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at the St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Turning the focus to other performances, ESPN’s David Usher praised Roberto Firmino, highlighting the Brazilian’s outstanding defensive contribution:

For much of the game he was not at his best, but the Brazilian was huge in his defensive work and headed away countless set pieces.

The longer it went, the more his influence grew in attack, and he did superbly to create the third goal for Henderson. A big performance from him.

The Mail’s Martin Samuel focused on another superb performance from Virgil van Dijk, praising the Dutchman for keeping his composure in a frantic contest:

This was another 90 minutes that displayed his credentials, crammed with vital blocks, clearances and interceptions. That is Van Dijk’s craft, his composure on the ball is what elevates him to the level of modern era greats like Rio Ferdinand.

Even when Liverpool wobble, the sight of Van Dijk in the middle assures.

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