Mane “mesmeric” in ‘win of title contenders’ – Media on Southampton 1-2 Liverpool

18 August 2019

The media praised Liverpool’s battling qualities and Sadio Mane’s performance in the 2-1 win at Southampton, but feel Adrian could become a problem.


The Reds followed UEFA Super Cup glory with a crucial three points at St Mary’s to ensure a 100 percent winning start to the new Premier League season.

Two brilliant finishes from Mane and Roberto Firmino ensured Danny Ings‘ goal from Adrian‘s error counted for nothing, and to bring the victory back to Merseyside.

It was always going to be a difficult game after a draining night in Istanbul, and Jurgen Klopp will be delighted to see his side dig out the win despite not hitting top form.

Here’s how the media reflected on a very important three points.

 

Reporters praised Liverpool for grinding out an important win in testing circumstances…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 17, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (R) celebrates at the final whistle with Virgil van Dijk after the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St. Mary's Stadium. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mirror’s Mark Jones felt a big positive was that the Reds demonstrated once again to be able to “find their way through” difficult games:

“Those first-half moments and the late second half ones [made things] all the more nervy for Klopp, but the German must be happy with how his side have learned to find their way through games.”

On a similar note, the Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle praised Klopp’s side for overcoming “a potential banana skin” and feels the “self-belief” Liverpool have in their ability to get the job done is key:

“A potential banana skin was sidestepped in what is becoming trademark fashion for a Reds side that, while not fully functioning, are leaning heavily on the growing self-belief that no matter what the situation, no matter how testing the predicament, they know how to get the job done.”

Goal reporter Neil Jones thinks it is a win that could already prove to be “one of the best of the season” given the circumstances surrounding the fixture:

“No Super Cup hangover for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who just about shrugged off their midweek workload. They’ll play better this season, for sure, but they won’t get many better wins, given the context.”

And Jones then reflected on Liverpool’s much-needed fast start to the season, assessing that Klopp’s men are already demonstrating title credentials by winning while playing below par:

“Six points from six, then, to start the season. The pace shows no sign of slowing. You don’t need to play like title contenders in August; you just need to win like them. Here, Liverpool did exactly that.”

 

There was praise for Mane’s brilliant performance…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 17, 2019: Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkhan labelled Mane’s display as “mesmeric” and awarded him Man of the Match:

“His ability to expertly create space for himself on the edge of the box enabled him to curl his effort into the top corner in a clear indication of the confidence currently oozing through him.

“But his influence on the scoresheet did not end there as his pressure off the ball created the opening for Firmino in what was a mesmeric display from Liverpool’s No. 10.”

Goal’s Jones thought Mane “stood out above everyone” and believes the Senegalese is currently the best wide attacker in the world:

“After the break, as the visitors found more of their rhythm, it was the Senegal man who stood above everyone else. If there’s a better wide attacker in the game right now, he’s well hidden.”

The Mirror’s Jones commented on Mane’s return to Southampton, and thought his display showed just how much he has improved as a player during his time at Anfield:

“Fresh from his brace in the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea in Istanbul, the Senegalese was back on his old stomping ground and showing just how much he’s improved as a player since leaving Southampton for Liverpool three years ago.

“At the time there were many who scoffed at the £34 million fee, but what would he be worth now? Four or five times that? Not that Liverpool would want to sell him of course.”

 

Certain reporters think Adrian is becoming a problem but had praise for another Red…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 17, 2019: Liverpool's goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo reacts during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

BBC Sport’s Neil Johnston put the blame for Liverpool’s early defensive uncertainty at the feet of Adrian, concluding that the Spaniard doesn’t bring the same “calmness” as Alisson:

Alisson‘s presence—alongside that of Van Dijk—brought a calmness to the Liverpool defence last season and since the Brazil keeper’s injury, Jurgen Klopp‘s side have looked vulnerable at the back.”

The Mail’s Riath Al-Samarrai thinks Adrian’s inconsistent distribution will be a major problem during the period he has to deputise:

“The point is reliability. And consistency. And the wider confidence of the defence that comes from a presence like Alisson and disappears in its absence. A replacement can never be expected to fill those boots without discomfort, but evidently it could be a jarring transition for a team that wants to play out from the back.

Adrian in this game appeared an accident waiting to happen with the ball at his feet and in time it did happen.”

Meanwhile, Johnston saw positive signs of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rediscovering form:

“Having recovered from a serious knee injury, if Oxlade-Chamberlain can return to the form he showed at the end of his first season with the club, it will be a huge boost for Klopp, who did not make a major signing in the summer.

“He got another 89 minutes under his belt against Southampton—including creating a good chance for Salah—and will hope to face another of his former clubs, Arsenal, next week at Anfield.”

The Telegraph’s Tom Morgan went further, arguing Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performance as the biggest positive of the day for Klopp:

“The biggest source of optimism for Klopp will undoubtedly be the second-half performance of Oxlade-Chamberlain, the injury-ravaged midfielder who started consecutive games for the first time in more than a year.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 17, 2019: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (L) and Southampton's Jan Bednarek (R) during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Liverpool Echo’s Connor Dunn felt that Oxlade-Chamberlain “thrived” as the midfield link as the No. 15 benefitted from playing in his preferred midfield position:

“It made a huge difference playing the England international in an area of the pitch that he knows so well, as he thrived down on the South Coast linking the play between defence and attack superbly well with a skillset Reds fans have been crying out for.”

In addition, the Mail’s Adrian Kajumba found Oxlade-Chamberlain’s defensive work particularly impressive and explained how he adds extra “fluidity and unpredictability” to the attack:

“Oxlade-Chamberlain also displayed the discipline and energy to get back and support Liverpool’s defence, not least when he was the one who raced back to fill in for an out-of-position Trent Alexander-Arnold and snuff out the danger posed down the left by Nathan Redmond.

“His range of abilities and flexibility increased Liverpool’s fluidity and unpredictability.”

 

Not all reporters were totally convinced by Liverpool’s performance though…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 17, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) and Southampton's Ryan Bertrand during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

First off, Melissa Reddy, writing for ESPN, thought the Reds struggled against Southampton’s high press:

“The European champions struggled to cope with the high press adopted by the hosts, who targeted their tiredness from Super Cup exertions.”

The Mirror’s Jones thinks that Liverpool’s continued slow first-half performances are becoming a concern:

“Just as against Chelsea in the Super Cup and Manchester City in the Community Shield—and even Norwich for periods, as odd as that sounds—Liverpool were wasteful and sloppy in the first 45 minutes. They could easily have been a goal down before Mane put them one up.”

Reddy was on a similar page, assessing that Klopp’s men are conceding too many big chances in the opening 45 minutes of games currently:

“Another first half of football where Liverpool allowed the opposition too many chances, with Southampton having six shots from inside the box.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 17, 2019: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (L) and Georginio Wijnaldum after the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St. Mary's Stadium. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

But finally, the Guardian’s Ben Fisher doesn’t think there is a long-term issue however, insisting that the sloppiness was understandable due to midweek exploits and all the travelling:

“The travelling appeared to take its toll here, particularly in the first half, and Liverpool’s sloppiness was encapsulated by Adrian’s slip-up seven minutes from time.

[…]

“They were off-colour: leggy, second-best and they looked and played like a team that only had one session to prepare for this match.”

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