One step forward and two steps back has turned into somewhat of a theme for the Liverpool side that looked to be back to their usual ways. 2-0 up courtesy Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge and cruising at half-time, Liverpool seemed in complete control at St. Mary’s before the game turned on its head. Goals from Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle leveled things up in the second half before Sadio Mane sealed the three points for Southampton with a fantastic finish. Sadio Mane also missed a penalty before the comeback took shape. Let’s have a look at the game’s talking points.
#1 Jon Flanagan, Liverpool captain
The evening began with the Liverpool fans excited with the team news, not for the addition of a player or the removal of one, but for the name of the man who would don the captain’s armband for the Reds.
Jordan Henderson started the game from the substitute’s bench and James Milner was suspended. Martin Skrtel and Christian Benteke, who have previously put on the armband were also on the Liverpool bench.
With Lucas out, the occasion called for a new captain in the ranks. It was surprising however that Jurgen Klopp chose to give Jon Flanagan the honour of leading his side out.
Jon Flanagan, the lone Scouse heartbeat in a side that has seen Jordan Henderson take over the captaincy from Steven Gerrard since his departure, would have been proud and did reasonably well for most of the game. However, it was not to be as Liverpool walked out defeated having given up a considerable lead and control of the game losing 3-2 on the night.
Flanagan however, has had quite a few weeks after returning from long-term injury, inspiring his team to a win against Manchester City after a Cup Final loss to the side just days ago, signing a new contract after much was made of Liverpool allowing it to run out in a few months and finally wearing the armband that every Scouse football fan hopes to put on for his home team.
#2 The penalty not given, the penalty that was
The game could have and should have seen two penalties given. However, rather contentiously one was not given and the other was called for immediately after the incident. The first penalty shout was arguably one that was stonewall in nature and spot on, but it wasn’t given.
Shane Long was unmistakably barged over by a nervy Dejan Lovren. However, referee Roger East deemed the challenge as legal leaving Southampton visibly aggrieved.
The second penalty was far easier to award for the referee as Martin Skrtel, on at half time for Dejan Lovren, was back to his usual shenanigans in the box bringing down Graziano Pelle, simply tugging at his shirt with Pelle looking to threaten the Liverpool goal.
However, the second penalty wasn’t about the awarding as it was about the execution. Sadio Mane, also on at half time, stood on the ball looking to slot it away. However, in spite of taking a decent penalty, he saw it saved by a spectacular dive from Simon Mignolet who encashed Martin Skrtel’s only ‘get out of jail’ card on the night with Skrtel eventually costing Liverpool the game.
#3 Coutinho continues good form
Philippe Coutinho is beginning to do what he does best. His magical gameplay with the ball at his feet has often formed the inspiration behind Liverpool achieving their best in games.
He was at his very best for much of the game as Coutinho opened the scoring with an incredible strike from distance which left Fraser Forster unsighted and completely beaten.
Coutinho’s finish from range was incredible and added to his wonderful solo effort against Manchester United in the Europa League which left people watching on in complete awe of the Brazilian’s ability.
The Liverpool attacker was also fantastic on the night with excellent play overall, pulling the strings for his side by being right in the middle of every good play Liverpool managed in the first half when the Merseyside club were tearing Southampton to shreds.
The Brazilian did fade a little in the second half but was rather helpless considering how Southampton turned the game on its head. Regardless of the result, with Roberto Firmino possibly out for a while with injury, it seems imperative that Liverpool keep Coutinho in good form as he remains crucial to their improvements in the final third.
#4 Ronald Koemans substitutions
Coming in on the back of a complete demolishing at the hands of Jurgen Klopp’s men in the Capital One Cup earlier this season, Ronald Koeman would have been forgiven for thinking that he was going to endure more of the same at half-time.
Liverpool had put in a fantastic first half performance to completely dominate Southampton who began the game brightly before losing their way. However, this time, unlike earlier in the season, Koeman reacted with changes.
Ronald Koeman brought on Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane for Jordie Clasie and Dusan Tadic respectively at the beginning of the second half, two substitutions that turned the game on its head.
Victor Wanyama gave Southampton control of the midfield with his power and ferocity. There were phases in the game when Liverpool didn’t enjoy more than a few seconds on the ball courtesy of Wanyama breathing down the Reds’ faces. His contribution in the game went on to have a more telling effect as Southampton overturned the two-goal deficit to run out winners.
Sadio Mane too gave Southampton an edge with his power and pace troubling Clyne and Flanagan considerably. Mane then chose to make a mess of a penalty won by Pelle off Skrtel. However, Mane was to make up for it, by scoring twice the second of which was the winner.
#5 Liverpools momentum halted
There will be heroes for Southampton and evidently a villain for Liverpool as the result makes for grim reading if you are Jurgen Klopp. The Liverpool game plan had been working of late before it capitulated on the night.
An unlikely late charge for the fourth Champions League spot through the Premier League standings was beginning to look a possibility with Liverpool grinding out wins and tearing certain teams apart. However, with this result, all possibility of Liverpool winning their way into contention for a fourth place finish seems to have gone up in smoke.
Liverpool continue to have two games in hand over most of the others in the table. However, with nine games to go, it seems unlikely that Liverpool will be able to gain enough ground on the teams currently in the top four and Jurgen Klopp will be disgruntled with how Liverpool eventually threw the game and their hopes of a grandstand finish to this season away.