Liverpool secured three hard-fought points with a 2-1 win over Southampton, but it was a mixed display across the board for the Reds.
Southampton 1-2 Liverpool
Premier League, St Mary’s
August 17, 2019
Goals: Ings 82′; Mane 45+1′, Firmino 71′
Adrian – 6 (out of 10)
It was a mixed outing for the No. 13, who was passed fit despite an ankle issue, making his first league start for the Reds.
Adrian made a number of vital saves, with his instinctive effort to deny Maya Yoshida from close range the pick of the bunch, but it was his distribution which left a lot to be desired as he placed both himself and his team-mates under pressure.
And he paid the price having failed to heed a warning in the first half when a lapse in concentration paved the way for James Ward-Prowse to close him down as he passed straight to Danny Ings to set up a needless nervy finish.
It was another game whereby the right-back was targeted by the opposition as the Reds’ defence continued in their attempts to iron out their early-season deficiencies.
He struggled with his touch, more so in the first-half, and needlessly handed over possession—but his influence rose as Liverpool gained ascendancy in the second 45.
There will be better days ahead.
Joel Matip – 6
As Trent’s partner on the right, he too found himself with a deluge of work in the first 45 and was guilty of being sloppy in possession and marauding upfield without cover.
Twice put his goalkeeper under pressure, first with a loose header and then with an attempted clearance which needed to be parried away in what was symptomatic of Liverpool’s exploits in mid-week.
Did find his feet more in the second half, however, but it remains to be seen whether he did enough to keep his place.
Virgil van Dijk – 8
A vocal and physical presence throughout and never looked to have stepped out of second gear.
Won his battles against Che Adams who continually asked questions and was a calming presence as the Reds found themselves under the cosh in the dying stages.
A performance which again showcased why he is a leading candidate for the FIFA Footballer of the Year.
Andy Robertson – 7
A standout in defence as the Reds came under consistent pressure, applying well-timed tackles in yet another industrious display.
A continuous outlet who provided forward impetus just when the Reds were in need of relieving pressure on the back-line.
Gini Wijnaldum – 6
The Dutchman was back in the No. 6 role on the south coast and had a mixed go of things as he too took time to find his groove.
He was caught out of position on a number of occasions and lost some physical battles in the middle of the park before imposing himself more on the contest as the game wore on.
He’s still working his way into the season and Jurgen Klopp will be hoping he finds his rhythm sooner rather than later.
James Milner – 6
After starting in Istanbul, Milner looked the most off the pace throughout and while he threw himself into the contest—with stitches to prove as much—he ultimately found it difficult to get a foot-hold.
He did provide the pass for Mane’s goal, but overall failed to inject the level of control needed in the middle of the park.
Will receive plenty of game time throughout the summer as the Reds compete across several competitions, but at the moment looks more effective as an option off the bench.
After being pulled at half-time in Istanbul from his forward role, Ox was moved back to his preferred midfield position for his first league start since April 2018.
And he was quick to settle, notably the liveliest of the midfield trio as he looked to drive through Southampton‘s compact system and set up his team-mates.
It wasn’t just on the ball or his forward movement, however, as his pressure off it was also a key part of his game which was exemplified by his covering run on right-flank to deny Nathan Redmond.
Mohamed Salah – 7
Looked the likeliest route to goal in the opening stages and looked sharp throughout with his runs off the Saints’ back-line.
He ought to have doubled Liverpool’s lead in the second half after finding himself in acres of space, but his awareness paved the way for deft touches and a plethora of reverse passes which went a long way in bringing his team-mates into the game.
And unlike others, it did not look as though he played the full 120 minutes in Istanbul.
Sadio Mane – 9 (Man of the Match)
After finding it difficult to penetrate the Saints’ defence a touch of quality was needed and Mane duly obliged as he picked up from where he left off in Turkey.
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.
Roberto Firmino – 7
The Brazilian was the quietest of the forward three as he initially fell victim to Liverpool’s inability to move the ball up the field with any level of precision.
He again moved deeper to get involved in the play and as ever, his work-rate could not be questioned.
But he, like his team-mates, burst into life after the interval as while he fluffed his effort on his first sight of goal, he more than made up for it with slalom across the 18-yard line and shot back across the ‘keeper.
Fabinho (on for Milner, 74′) – 6
Threw himself into a number of challenges and helped ensure Liverpool did not concede a second late in the piece.
Divock Origi (on for Salah, 79′) – N/A
Displaced Mane on the left-flank and while he had a number of touches he didn’t have time to make a notable influence.
Jordan Henderson (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain, 89′) – N/A
Introduced to see the game out and did just that.
Subs not used: Lonergan, Gomez, Lallana, Shaqiri
Jurgen Klopp – 8
The trip to St Mary’s was tipped to be a banana skin after the Reds’ mid-week exploits, and despite rotating members of his midfield trio, Klopp made a clear statement after naming a strong defence and his first-choice attacking trio.
It was never going to be liquid football and the Reds were able to navigate through the early pressure and revitalise themselves after the interval to again show the mental fortitude which got them so far last season.
The victory marks the 11th successive Premier League win, which equals the club’s record, and while there were still teething issues on show another three points in the bank are all that matters in the early stages.
Another test now awaits against Arsenal next weekend, but the Reds should be well prepared after a weeks’ break.