Helped by an amazing goal from attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho and a clean finish by striker Raheem Sterling, Liverpool topped host Southampton 2-0 in a Premier League match Sunday at St. Mary's Stadium. Liverpool are now unbeaten in seven straight games across all competitions and are undefeated in 10 consecutive league matches.
The Reds got off to a hot start scoring a beautiful goal in just the third minute. Forward Coutinho hit an amazing, curling shot from well outside the box that dipped over keeper Fraser Forster’s outstretched hands to put Liverpool up 1-0 early. It was a wonderstrike to start the match.
Southampton had a couple of early chances as well, missing out on two possible penalty calls. Referee Kevin Friend kept his whistle in his pocket despite two rough challenges on Southampton attackers in the box. Near the 32nd minute, Liverpool felt they were robbed of a penalty kick when Sterling was brought down with a sweeping tackle in the box and no call was awarded.
Adding even more controversy, in the 44th minute Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet came out on a Saints breakaway and jumped to stop a chipped shot off the foot of forward Eljero Elia. Mignolet appeared to touch the ball outside of the box, which would have resulted in a red card if called, but once again the call was not made.
The controversy set aside, the first half continued with back and forth play, both sides having their chances. The pace of play was quick and the quality perhaps verged towards sloppy at times in the rain. The first half ended with Liverpool owning a 1-0 lead, perhaps against the run of play, as Southampton controlled 59 percent of possession.
The second half started much the same way, with both teams attacking with regularity. There were no early breakthroughs like the first half, however, and far less controversy. A goal finally came in the 73rd minute to put the Reds up 2-0. Liverpool were attacking after picking off a Southampton pass in the Saints' half of the field. Liverpool back Alberto Moreno hit a ill-aimed cross into the box but it was poorly cleared by Southampton defender Matt Targett. Sterling was there to clean up the rebound and slot home a shot into the bottom left corner of the goal. The goal was Sterling's sixth league score of the year. The 2-0 lead represented some breathing room for the Reds, and essentially assured a victory.
The two sides are in a battle to try and finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. Sunday's match was an important one in that race. The win put Brendan Rodgers' side just one point behind fifth-place Southampton in the Premier League table. Ronald Koeman's Southampton side remain one point behind Manchester United and didn't take the chance to move into the ever-important top four.
In an interesting subplot, former Southampton star and current Liverpool forward Adam Lallana was relatively quiet in his return to St. Mary's Stadium. He barely impacted the match before being subbed off in the 63rd minute.
Liverpool will move on to play the second leg of a Europa match against Besiktas on Thursday. The Reds hold a 1-0 lead on aggregate following a win at Anfield. Southampton’s next match is an away fixture against West Brom next Saturday.