Klopp inspires rampant Liverpool in Southampton demolition
Southampton 1-6 Liverpool
Who could have expected Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool to be this good, this quickly? His revitalised side stormed into the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup last night with a display of ferocious intensity and quality, beating a shell-shocked and unresponsive Southampton side 6-1.
This was Liverpool's fourth straight win and their seventh in eight games. If it did not feel quite as impressive as the 4-1 win at Manchester City 12 days ago, that is only because of the differing levels of the opposition. Liverpool, it must be said, were not at their strongest either, using none of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Christian Benteke or James Milner.
What Liverpool did have though was Daniel Sturridge, making his first start for two months and his first under the new regime at Anfield. He turned the game with two brilliant finishes within four first-half minutes, finishes which show that he is still the best Liverpool have got, if they can just keep him fit.
Liverpool were so far ahead that Klopp withdrew Sturridge after just 59 minutes. That was when Divock Origi took over. He had never scored for Liverpool before last night, and has rarely looked as if he would, but he scored two emphatic second-half goals, completing a hat-trick which started when he got a slight touch on Alberto Moreno's shot just before the break. Origi, like many Liverpool players, has been transformed by Klopp.
The surprising thing, given how the first half panned out, was how it started. Ronald Koeman's side, aiming to reach their first semi-final for 12 years, started in a hurry. They were ahead after 41 seconds.
Connor Randall, in just his second Liverpool appearance, looked no match for Dusan Tadic out on the left wing. Tadic tricked his way into space and laid the ball back to Ryan Bertrand. His cross caught Moreno sleeping at the far post and Sadio Manedarted in to head home.
Saints should have doubled their lead five minutes later by the same route. Tadic crossed from the left, Victor Wanyama stormed in but headed straight at Adam Bogdan. Southampton would regret that miss.
Liverpool were taking their time to get their bearings.
But they did and the equaliser came when Joe Allen swept a perfect, first-time, diagonal pass to Sturridge, running wide of Steven Caulker. Sturridge's first touch took the ball too wide, but he paused, beat Caulker with a stepover and then arrowed a left-footed shot into the far bottom corner.
The next goal was even better. Emre Can robbed Jordi Clasie in midfield and shuffled the ball away from him. Then, with the outside of his right boot, he dropped a curling pass over the top of Caulker's head, right on to Sturridge's run. Sturridge finished before Maarten Stekelenburg realised what had happened.
Those goals changed the game and Saints could not even get to half-time with a one-goal deficit. When they failed to clear a corner in added time, Moreno smacked it back on the half-volley and into the near bottom corner of the net, via the faintest of touches from Origi. Suddenly everything was going right.
Southampton needed to start the second half quickly and, while they raised the tempo, they could not match Liverpool for quality. Pelle found Mane with one sharp through ball but Dejan Lovren, barracked by the home crowd throughout, moved across to block.
Looking for answers, Koeman switched briefly to 3-4-3, and then, with James Ward-Prowse and Shane Long coming off the bench, 3-3-3-1. Klopp had just withdrawn Sturridge for Jordon Ibe on the hour, embracing his star striker as he came off, and changed to a rather seasonal 4-3-2-1 'Christmas tree' formation.
That was the change that worked best, leading Origi to score the goal that settled the game soon afterwards. Ibe had drifted into the pocket of inside-right space, away from any possible marker. He played a perfect pass through to Origi, whose run exploited the uneven line of Saints' new back three. Through on goal, Origi thundered his shot in off the underside of the crossbar. If there was some doubt about whether Origi scored the third goal, there was none about the fourth.
Liverpool were rampant and Southampton were beaten. With their first attack after the fourth goal, Liverpool scored a fifth. Origi laid the ball to Moreno, on the left wing, who faced no resistance at all to cross from the left. Ibe chesteds it down on the edge of the box, and hit a rasping shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
Liverpool took it easy for the next 13 minutes but there was one goal left to come. Substitute Brad Smith ran down the left wing, making a mockery of Saints' system, before crossing into the box. Origi ran in behind Wanyama, playing as a very nominal centre-back, and headed in the sixth.
SOUTHAMPTON: Stekelenburg, Soares (Ward-Prowse 63), Caulker, Van Dijk, Bertrand, Clasie (Long 63), Wanyama, Tadic, Mané, Davis (Romeu 77), Pellè. Subs: Yoshida, Martina, Juanmi, Gazzaniga
Goal: Mané (1)
LIVERPOOL: Bogdan, Randall, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno (Smith 77), Can, Lucas, Lallana, Allen (Henderson 74), Sturridge (Ibe 59), Origi. Subs: Milner, Benteke, Firmino, Mignolet
Goals: Sturridge (25, 29), Origi (45, 68, 86), Ibe (73)
Man of the match: Divock Origi
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Robert Madley