The expectations have had a habit of suffocating the life out of Liverpool at moments like this. The absence of a league trophy these past 28 years has created what Jamie Carragher once described as a ‘gaping, lingering void’ and just a few wins – never mind the opening seven games for the first time in the club’s history – does something to the dreamers in such a profoundly optimistic place.
It’s why the composure was just as significant as the points, as the club equalled their best ever start to a league campaign since Bill Shankly was pulling up trees in the old Second Division, 57 years ago.
The exertions of overcoming Paris Saint-Germain did look to have taken a toll for a side whose preparations were limited by Storm Ali battering Melwood at their designated training time on Friday.
The Egyptian lapped up the adoration of Anfield after making it 3-0 to Liverpool and sending the Reds enroute to victory
Salah got down to the turf and celebrated in his traditional manner after adding another Liverpool goal to his collection
On the 20-minute mark Liverpool went 2-0 ahead after Joel Matip rose high to head home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner
The German centre back out-jumped Southampton’s Jannik Vestergaard to plant a powerful header on the ball
Matip roared in celebration after scoring for Liverpool on his first return to the starting line up for some time
PLAYER RATINGS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson 6; Alexander-Arnold 6.5, Matip 6, Van Dijk8 (Gomez 55, 6), Robertson 6.5; Shaqiri7.5 (Milner 46, 6), Henderson 6.5, Wijnaldum 6 (Keita 70, 5.5); Mane 6.5, Salah 6, Firmino 6.5
SUBS NOT USED: Mignolet, Fabinho, Sturridge, Moreno
GOALS: Hoedt og 10, Matip 21, Salah 45+3
MANAGER: Jurgen Klopp
SOUTHAMPTON (4-4-1-1): McCarthy6.5; Cedric 6, Vestergaard 5, Hoedt5.5, Bertrand 5; Redmond 6.5(Bednarek 55, 5), Romeu 5, Hojbjerg5.5, Targett 5 (Armstrong 55, 5); Lemina 6; Long 6 (Austin 79, 5)
SUBS NOT USED: Gunn, Yoshida, Davis, Ward-Prowse
BOOKINGS: Romeu, Lemina
MANAGER: Mark Hughes
REFEREE: Paul Tierney
MAN OF THE MATCH: Van Dijk
Season at a glance:
Team P GD Pts 1 Liverpool 6 12 18 2 Manchester City 6 16 16 3 Chelsea 5 10 15 4 Watford 6 5 13 5 Tottenham Hotspur 6 5 12 6 Manchester United 6 0 10 7 Bournemouth 6 -1 10 8 Leicester City 6 1 9 9 Arsenal 5 1 9 10 Wolverhampton Wanderers 6 0 9 11 Crystal Palace 6 -2 7 12 Everton 5 -1 6 13 Brighton and Hove Albion 6 -3 5 14 Southampton 6 -3 5 15 Fulham 6 -5 5 16 Burnley 6 -3 4 17 West Ham United 5 -6 3 18 Newcastle United 6 -4 2 19 Cardiff City 6 -11 2 20 Huddersfield Town 6 -11 2
There was a setback: Virgil van Dijk departing ten minutes into the second half after taking a blow to a rib which he had been suffering soreness with before Tuesday night’s match against the French. Yet the difficulties were brushed aside. It became an exercise in game management, rather than the kind of football exhibition for which Klopp is known.
The manager played his part, removing Xherdan Shaqiri at half time having concluded that the player’s considerable contribution, in his first start for the team, was to the detriment of keeping Southampton out. Shaqiri had played a big hand in two of Liverpool’s three goals by then.
‘I’ve never taken such an influential player off at half time without injury,’ the manager said. ‘I wanted to control the game.’
The Swiss had been rewarded for his endeavour inside ten minutes when his shot from the left side of the area pin-balled in off Shane Long and the knee of Wesley Hoedt, though Sadio Mane’s subtle contribution to the goal was more significant. Meandering away from goal with the ball at his feet, Sane turned, shaped back the way he had come, and slid the pass inside Cedric which Shaqiri could pick up.
It was, in every sense, the game which shone a light on the depth of Liverpool’s strength. Joel Matip had already made a significant impression on his own first start of the season before sending Trent Alexander-Arnold’s 21st minute corner high beyond Alex McCarthy with a header of first class accuracy.
Liverpool grabbed the opening goal of the game after a cross deflected through Southampton bodies and hit Wesley Hoedt
The Dutchman could not react quickly enough and flicked the ball over the line past his goalkeeper
Alex McCarthy tried in vain to claw the ball back from behind the line but the referee had signalled for 1-0 to the Reds
The ball had already beaten McCarthy by the time the England goalkeeper had chance to hook his arm back across
Xherdan Shaqiri was responsible for putting in the cross which bounced through the defence and hit the unsuspecting Hoedt
The winger peeled away in celebration and looked ecstatic with his role in the opening goal for the Reds
Mohamed Salah contributed significantly, shrugging off his own albatross and rediscovering that smile, wide as the Mersey, having accelerated ahead of Cedric Soares after Shaqiri’s free kick bounced down from the cross bar and score the third.
Salah was Liverpool in microcosm: flashes of sublimity, like an effort with the back his left heel after he’d rounded Jannik Vestergaard which trickled an inch wide, yet struggles, too. The Kop’s first half Salah anthem was sung more in empathy than euphoria.
A significant subsidiary narrative belong to Virgil van Dijk, who reminded Southampton how monumentally much they miss him. A 40-yard diagonal pass for Mane to take down from the sky. A calmly placed challenge to take the ball from Shane Long’s toe on a brief early incursion. A sharp word for Alisson Becker after what he seemed to consider a lack of command in the Liverpool box.
But there was defensive fragility everywhere you looked in Mark Hughes’ ranks. Vestergaard was comfortably beaten to that header by Matip and the speed of reaction to the free-kick which Salah seized upon was poor.
Salah allowed himself a smile after very nearly beating McCarthy one-on-one with an audacious back-heeled attempt
Andy Robertson battled for the ball under pressure from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Cedric Soares
The manager did not attempt to disguise the vulnerability. The goals were ‘too easy’ he said. His team were ‘vulnerable on the break’ he conceded. ‘We didn’t defend correctly. We ended up conceding easy goals.’
Not for the first time, a Hughes team parading genuine attacking intent – Nathan Redmond delivered consistently well from the right and Long was an intermittent threat – looks terribly weak at the back.
James Milner’s introduction in the second half compressed Southampton yet more, even though, as Klopp related, it didn’t feel ‘like Spring’ for him either. Salah was correctly adjudged offside after firing in rebound when Milner’s shot was cleared off the line, though the occasion was over long before the floodlights illuminated it.
Klopp said he had certainly not expected this record start. ‘Yes, it’s a surprise,’ he grinned. ‘I lost seven in a row once in my life but that felt different but won game eight 5-0.’ When Shankly’s side last began a season like this, in 1961/2 they won 10 and drew one of their first eleven, though the challenges up ahead are very substantial: Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, and Manchester City eight days later.
‘Yes the period ends with a nice game against Man City,’ Klopp said. ‘It’s nice for all of us but the next one is coming.’
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn was in attendance at Anfield and paid tribute at the Hillsborough memorial
Corbyn was seen mingling with supporters outside the stadium before making his way inside to watch the match