Football

Liverpool beats Southampton to take Premier League title race down to the wire

Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino scores his side’s first goal during the Premier League match against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium

Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino scores his side’s first goal during the Premier League match against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Joel Matip's stooping header gave Liverpool a 2-1 win at Southampton on May 17 night to keep the Premier League title race alive until the final day of the season.

The result leaves Liverpool a point behind leaders Manchester City ahead of Sunday's final round of Premier League games when City are at home to Aston Villa and Liverpool host Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield.

City have 90 points with Liverpool on 89, meaning that victory for Pep Guardiola's Manchester City against Villa, managed by former Reds captain Steven Gerrard, would secure their fourth Premier League title in five seasons.

Nine changes to Liverpool squad

Jurgen Klopp made nine changes to the team that beat Chelsea on penalties in the FA Cup final on Saturday with Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah injured but several others rested.

Jurgen Klopp's choice was looking questionable when Southampton took a 13th-minute lead through a wonderful Nathan Redmond strike after the winger had cut in from the left flank.

Roberto Firmino, who led the line in the absence of Sadio Mane, had a header ruled out for offside as the visitors sought a quick way back into the Premier League game.

Liverpool, who face Real Madrid in the Champions League final on May 28, drew level in the 27th minute with Takumi Minamino, who spent a loan spell with Southampton last season, firing a fierce shot in at the near post.

Defender Joe Gomez, whose Liverpool career has been hampered by injuries, had to be substituted at the interval after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury just before the break.

The goal had taken the wind out of Southampton's sails and it was no surprise when Liverpool secured the three points after Kostas Tsimikas's corner was headed in by Matip in the 67th minute.

It was a weak effort by Southampton and Liverpool had little trouble seeing out the rest of the game and setting up what could be a tense Premier League final day.

James Milner, the 36-year-old utility Liverpool player who was given a rare start, praised the back-up players for the way they took on the game.

"The guys are incredible. The guys who may not have played as much but you see it in training every day the level they put in and you can see it when they need to step up," he said.

"It is a special group of players and a special football club. We fight to the end and keep going. All we can do is take it as far as we can," he added.

Klopp’s ‘Ferraris in the garage’

Jurgen Klopp was left impressed by his fringe players after Liverpool’s crucial win kept the Premier League title race alive.

“After making nine changes, if it didn’t work out it was my responsibility, now it worked out it’s the boys’ responsibility. I thought they did exceptionally well,” said Jurgen Klopp.

“I’m so happy about the performance it was a bit touching. It’s like having Ferraris in the garage.”

“That Takumi doesn’t play more often, that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is in outstanding shape and is not part of the squad very often, Harvey (Elliott) didn’t play for a long time, Curtis (Jones) didn’t play for a long time and all these boys deliver, it’s unbelievable,” added Jurgen Klopp.

“It is really tough for the boys, but whatever happens this year happens because of this group. It is exceptional and tonight they showed it again.”


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Printable version | Jun 23, 2022 5:33:37 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/liverpool-beats-southampton-to-take-premier-league-title-race-down-to-the-wire/article65425505.ece