Liverpool had a chance to win their fourth league match in a row on Sunday afternoon at St. Mary's Stadium. Unfortunately, Ronald Koeman and Southampton had other plans - coming from behind to record a 3-2 win on the south coast.
Despite finishing the first half 2-0 up thanks to quickfire goals from Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, it was Southampton that would make the headlines as they were able to eclipse the deficit and take home all three points thanks to Sadio Mane's double and Graziano Pelle's strike.
Southampton looked dangerous from the go as the home side had three chances within the first 12 minutes. Despite finding space in the box, neither Virgil van Dijk or Pelle could capitalize as Shane Long saw his attempt smothered by Dejan Lovren, who was perhaps fortunate not to conceded a penalty after making contact with Long inside the box.
The hosts would rue their missed chances as Liverpool found themselves ahead shortly after. Coutinho scored once again in spectacular fashion as the Brazilian’s shot from 25 yards beat Fraser Forster to find the far bottom corner. Coutinho’s goal came from almost the exact position on the pitch he scored from at St. Mary’s last season.
After the opening goal, the visitors' attacking prowess truly began to show. Only five minutes later, it was Sturridge who would add his name to the scoresheet. A brilliant Liverpool counter attack sent Divock Origi on his way with Sturridge in support. The Belgian picked out his striking partner in the box, and Sturridge did all the rest, fooling his defender with a step over before firing into the bottom corner with his left foot.
Joe Allen nearly made it 3-0 for Liverpool, but just simply could not beat Fraser Forster after a superb counter-attack set him into space. Eventually Allen would bulge the net from a loose ball off a corner, but the goal was disallowed due to an offside call - with Mamadou Sakho beyond the defence and forced to jump over the ball on its way to goal. The half ended 2-0 with the home side lucky to be down so little.
Ronald Koeman's tactics shine in second-half
A double change by Ronald Koeman at the half proved to be the turning point for the Saints, who would come out a different side for the second-half. Liverpool’s own halftime substitution, Martin Skrtel, offered Southampton a lifeline after taking Pelle down inside the Liverpool box. Sadio Mane stepped up to the spot, but Simon Mignolet guessed the right way, bailing out the woeful Skrtel.
Mane would not be denied in the end as the Southampton man capitalized on Liverpool’s poor passing. Emre Can conceded possession deep in the Liverpool half as Mane received the ball at the top of the box. With a quick turn and drop of the shoulder, he was beyond Mamadou Sakho before finishing with a low strike.
Liverpool nearly put the game to rest, but Christian Benteke couldn’t make his chance count. A two-on-two opportunity with Origi and Benteke saw the latter receive the ball in space from his compatriot, but he could only fire wide past Forster as his struggle to score from open play continues.
The match was flipped on its head in the final 10 minutes as two goals brought the home side ahead. A clever flick from Long found Pelle on the edge of the box who fired his shot into the back of the net after bringing the ball onto his favored left foot. It was a stunning goal that Mignolet could have only dreamed of saving.
Mane would complete the turn around with minutes left in the match. After Skrtel failed to win Mignolet’s poor clearance, Southampton won possession and quickly sent Mane on his way, scoring with Sakho on his shoulder once more.
It was a compelling match that Liverpool will surely feel they should have gotten at least a point from. In the end, it was Koeman's substitutions trumping Jürgen Klopp's as the Liverpool manager was shown that Skrtel should have never been introduced.
However, poor finishing from Allen and Benteke left the door open for the Saints who came marching right on through for a 3-2 victory which leaves Liverpool's top-four hopes in tatters once again.