Liverpool’s 2-0 win at home to Southampton may not have been a classic, but the watching media talked up the Reds’ top-four hopes.
The Premier League champions hosted a Saints side who have suffered a similarly dispiriting campaign in 2020/21, with only victory acceptable for the Reds.
Here’s how the media assessed the three points.
There was bullishness from some journalists, who believe a top-four finish is still very possible…
Goal‘s Neil Jones fired a warning to Brendan Rodgers and his Leicester side:
“It is not over yet. Not quite.
“Leicester beware. Liverpool are still fighting. Despite everything, despite the knocks and the setbacks and the injuries, the Reds are still there.
Alex Richards of the Mirror seemed confident that Liverpool’s race isn’t run yet:
“It has been an emotionally draining season for this Liverpool side. You can see it in their performances.
“The zip and swagger of their title-winning campaign is long gone, they look a tired outfit and, despite a clean sheet here, there is such fragility about this side.
“But there remains quality. Match-winning quality. The likes of Mane, Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino, even Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, aren’t at their very best. But they’re continuing to push for the top four until the bitter end.”
The Guardian‘s Andy Hunter was another who focused on Leicester now feeling the heat:
“It remains, however, a possibility in the present. Sadio Mane’s first half header and Thiago Alcantara’s first goal for the club downed Southampton and heighten the anxiety clearly being felt in Leicester.
“The Premier League champions, for a few more days at least, can sniff blood in the form of Brendan Rodgers’ faltering fourth-placed team.
“This performance was not a convincing argument for their own prospects of ending a troubled season with a flourish but, after two wasteful draws, the end product was all that mattered for Klopp and his players.”
Thiago had one of his better nights in a frustrating first season at Liverpool, receiving deserved praise…
Richards was impressed by the midfielder’s all-round contribution, understandably mentioning his long-awaited goal, too:
“The wait is finally over. On his 26th appearance for the Anfield club, Thiago opened his Liverpool account with a delightful side-footed finish beyond Fraser Forster in dying stages.
“The Spaniard was a potent attacking threat throughout the match and – once again – seemed to flourish in a midfield trio alongside the more defensive-minded Fabinho.
“It’s been a challenging season of ups and downs for Thiago but he is beginning to show signs of the brilliance Klopp will hope to build his midfield around next season.”
Writing for This Is Anfield, James Nalton was impressed by the Spaniard’s impact at Anfield, willing fans to be able to see him in the flesh:
“The 30-year-old should become a favourite at Anfield if he’s able to stay fit and in the team. He may even be appreciated beyond Liverpool in grounds around the country, such is his natural ability to entertain and his flamboyant skills, even in between the main narratives of a game.
“Against Southampton there was a pass with the shoulder, a pirouette in midfield, a blast on the half volley from distance, and a late goal, all of which would have had fans showing their appreciation.
“He finished the game with a pass success of 93 per cent, while only Andy Robertson had more touches. He will be much more appreciated once people get to see him live and can make their own minds up.”
“It was Thiago Alcantara who made sure the points remained on Merseyside with his first Liverpool goal late on.
“The Spaniard has not had a vintage season by the standards of one of the most decorated careers of the past 10 years but the midfielder’s class is undeniable.
“Like the first goalscorer, Mane, a happier season will surely await ex-Bayern Munich star Thiago when he features more regularly alongside some of the team-mates he joined the club to play with next term.”
Some were quick not to gloss over the negatives, though, with the Reds still struggling to convince…
Jones was under no illusions that this remains a shadow of the team that swatted everybody else aside last season:
“They are a tough watch at the minute, missing key players, missing their supporters and missing the verve and energy which has been their hallmark over the past four years.
“Nobody, with the exception of Nat Phillips perhaps, will look back on this campaign with fondness. The malaise has gripped everyone, the life sapped out of players and staff alike.
“Even the victories are ugly. This one was, Liverpool nosing their way in front and then grinding it out in the second half. A more clinical side than Southampton, it has to be said, would have punished the home side’s nerves and slackness.”
Bascombe was similarly wary of going too overboard:
“It was not especially convincing. On occasion, Klopp’s side once more looked more like the anti-Liverpool, as if everything that made them title winners has been lost in the silence of pandemic football.
“Some of the reasons for that are obvious, but before Thiago found the bottom corner the psychological frailty was excruciating to witness.
“Some flaws cannot be attributed solely to lack of personnel and fans, such as failing to take numerous early chances when in the ascendency.”