A professional and considered performance earned Liverpool a 2-0 victory over Southampton in a game that was lit up by a handful of pivotal incidents.
Roberto Firmino broke the deadlock in the early stages on Sunday but, undeterred, the relegation-threatened home side forced Loris Karius into a string of important stops.
The outcome was essentially decided three minutes before the interval, however. The finest passage of play in the Premier League clash saw Firmino turn provider – with perhaps the best assist of the season – for Mohamed Salah to bag the second.
Here are five things we loved in the win at St Mary’s…
Firmino’s brilliant back-heel assist
After a series of impudent goals came the most outrageous of assists.
There seemed no immediate emergency for Southampton when Joel Matip fed a pass into Salah and the Egyptian turned towards the edge of the area, with Firmino to his left.
But in what felt like a split-second after receiving the ball, the No.9 invented and executed a perfect back-heel flick through the wall of defenders around him and into the burst of his teammate, who gratefully pounced to double Liverpool’s lead and – ultimately – put the game beyond the hosts.
A piece of skill worth watching from every angle…
20 up for the Brazilian
Firmino had already found the net himself, of course, with a clinical, sixth-minute swipe past Alex McCarthy when Salah broke in behind the Saints defence and slid a pass sideways.
The strike was the 26-year-old’s 20th in all competitions this term, already eight more than his previous personal best in a single campaign for the club.
“Good players, eh?” said Klopp of Firmino and Salah, with a touch of understatement.
And, as you can see in the compilation below, ‘Bobby’ has offered quality as well as quantity in front of goal – with a variety of lobs, headers, no-look finishes and more…
Karius’ crucial saves at 1-0
“A fantastic game – good saves and was really football smart.”
Asked a question post-match about the exploits of his attacking players, the manager quickly turned the conversation to the rest of his side and in the case of the above quote, Karius.
The German was a Man of the Match contender on the south coast, in large part due to his excellent saves to deny Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and James Ward-Prowse with the score still at 1-0.
Karius had played a role in the opener, too, sensing the chance to launch an attack with a throw out to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain which led to Firmino netting seconds later.
Another game, another goal, another Salah record
The weekly occurrence of Salah achieving a record was ticked off the list at St Mary’s.
This time, the summer signing equalled Robbie Fowler’s Premier League feat of hitting 19 left-footed goals in one season, which the former Reds forward registered in 1994-95.
The eagle-eyed among you will recall the three efforts by other means – a header against Leicester City and right-footed finishes past Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.
With 11 league fixtures remaining, the odds won’t be very long on Salah surpassing Fowler’s tally outright between now and May.
Van Dijk’s unruffled return to St Mary’s
At his pre-match press conference, Klopp revealed his intention to speak with Virgil van Dijk about the prospect of returning to the club he left to join Liverpool on January 1.
The contents of that chat were explained in greater detail after the game. “I asked, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘No, I’m fine boss.’” said the manager.
And he was more than fine.
Van Dijk was calm and composed alongside Matip in central defence, shaking off the ‘strange’ feeling of being back at St Mary’s so soon to help the Reds secure an 11th league clean sheet of 2017-18.