English Premier League

Ruthless Liverpool beat Southampton 4 – 0

Log Leaders Liverpool equalled Manchester City’s record of 20 consecutive Premier League wins at home with an emphatic victory over Southampton at Anfield.

Midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the opener just after half time – his second goal in as many league matches – when he drilled the ball low into the bottom corner. Liverpool’s skipper Jordan Henderson made it 2-0 on the hour mark with a calm finish after being set up by Roberto Firmino.

Captain Henderson then played in Mohamed Salah for Liverpool’s third and Egypt forward added a fourth from close range in the last minute. Only Bill Shankly’s Liverpool team in 1972 had a longer winning streak on home soil in English top-flight history.

The scoreline was harsh on the visitors, who matched Liverpool for much of the first hour with Danny Ings going close in the first half and Shane Long also denied by Liverpool keeper Alisson.

The victory extends Liverpool’s unbeaten run in the league to 42 games and they now sit 22 points clear at the top of the table with second-placed Manchester City not playing until Sunday.

It was Southampton’s first away defeat in five games and they fall to 11th place.

Liverpool’s wait for a first league title in 30 years will surely end this season. They have one hand on the trophy and the other is moving steadily closer with every fixture.

It is only 1 February but Liverpool are 22 points clear at the top of the Premier League table – the biggest lead any team has ever had at the end of a day in English top-flight history.

The Reds are unbeaten in 42 games, have conceded just one league goal in their last 10 matches and have 73 points from 25 games – a top-flight record.

Before Saturday, only City had won more consecutive games at home in the Premier League, between March 2011 and March 2012.

With only 13 matches left, it is increasingly surely only a question of whether Liverpool can remain unbeaten for the season rather than if they end their drought.

Nevertheless, their performance in the first half against Southampton was nervous and suggested the visitors could have a chance to inflict a first defeat on Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Sloppy passes, mistakes at the back and a lack of intensity going forward meant the Saints had opportunities to score and were barely stretched at the back.

Southampton, spearheaded by top-scorer Ings in the attack, finished the half as the better team, going close through the former Reds striker as well as Long and Moussa Djenepo.

But Liverpool, no doubt invigorated by a half-time talk from Klopp, were quick out the blocks in the second half and as soon as they scored the victory that was expected before the match felt inevitable.

The scorer of that opener, Oxlade-Chamberlain, is starting to regain the form he demonstrated prior to picking up a serious knee injury while Henderson was magnificent again in controlling the midfield. They were solid at the back with Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk’s centre-back partnership continuing to flourish.

The Reds were without the injured Sadio Mane, but Firmino and Salah delivered the goods; the Brazil striker produced a hat-trick of assists to take his total to 51 in all competitions for the club, while Salah scored twice.

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said before the game he wanted his side to “show how far we have come, how competitive we are.”

They certainly did that, especially in the first half.

Ings, who left Liverpool to join the Saints for £20m in July, had scored 14 goals in 19 starts heading into the match and he was a threat throughout.

His close-range effort in the first half looked like it was heading in before it clipped the heel of team-mate Long and bounced away from goal.

The striker, who was praised for his tireless work ethic under Klopp, was almost rewarded early in the second half when he managed to bundle through into the box after a tussle with Fabinho.

There were appeals for a penalty, which was reviewed by VAR, but it appeared as if the eager Ings’ effort to evade Fabinho sent him to the ground rather contact from Liverpool’s midfielder – although Hasenhuttl believes it was a foul.

To rub salt into Saints’ wound, immediately after the incident Liverpool went up the other end and scored the opener.

Ings continued to cause problems though, earning a corner off a deflected shot after taking on Andy Robertson and Virgil van Dijk and linking up with James Ward-Prowse, who fired just wide of the right post.

He was substituted in the 70th minute, alongside strike partner Long, and was given a standing ovation by the fans of his former club.

Ings’ form has been one of the reasons for Southampton’s surge away from the relegation zone and if continues to be such a threat, Saints look good for a top-half finish in the table.

They fired in 10 shots in the first half against Liverpool, the most the Reds have faced in the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League match at Anfield since Chelsea in November 2014.

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Source – Sport365coza

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