Kingdom– Jurgen Klopp saluted Liverpool’s steely focus after they surged 22
points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 4-0 rout of Southampton on
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jordan Henderson put the runaway
leaders in control at Anfield before Mohamed Salah’s double made it an
astonishing 100 league points from the last 102 available to them.
A 24th victory in 25 league matches this season and ninth
clean sheet in 10 games underlined how Klopp’s side have turned the title race
into a procession.
The 22-point lead is the largest in the division’s history
and the win also means Liverpool have gone 42 league games without defeat,
matching Nottingham Forest’s run in 1977-78 and behind only Arsenal’s 49-game
mark in 2003-04.
But Klopp claimed the struggles they experienced in the
first half against Southampton demonstrated why he and his players still refuse
to start celebrating the title prematurely.
“It’s easy for me to use this game as a description for
the situation here,” Klopp said.
“Just incredibly difficult opponents to play against.
They’re not here to be part of any party. They want to hurt us, beat us.
“We have to throw everything we have on the pitch and,
thankfully, the boys do that. That’s why we are where we are. But we don’t take
that for granted, not for a second.
“I promise you, I don’t lie. I’m a very optimistic
person but the day before every game my main feeling is concern because I know
anything can happen.
“I have never seen anything like it. It is not that I
feel stronger and stronger, it is just one great celebration, sometimes more,
sometimes less, and then relief, settle, go again.”
The ever-growing list of records that Liverpool are amassing
proves that, while Klopp is reluctant, his team’s supporters can certainly
start their celebrations.
But they had to survive an awkward opening 45 minutes — in
which Alisson saved well from Moussa Djenepo and Shane Long — before taking
control in controversial fashion two minutes after the restart.
Danny Ings appealed that he had been tripped by Fabinho on
his way into the home area but the hosts broke immediately upfield,
Oxlade-Chamberlain spearheading a counter-attack which ended in an exchange of
passes with Roberto Firmino, and a brilliant finish into the bottom corner of
the Southampton goal.
The visitors appealed furiously that they should have been
awarded the earlier penalty only to be met with an unfavourable decision from
It proved to be a moot point when Henderson doubled the lead
from a move started when he closed down a clearance from keeper Alex McCarthy
and Trent Alexander-Arnold returned it upfield.
Firmino chased the pass down and laid the ball off for
Henderson to drive in an unstoppable finish.
Twelve minutes later Henderson himself set up the third,
with a magnificent pass which just eluded Jan Bednarek and allowed Salah to
chase through and lift the ball over the keeper.
Firmino and substitute Takumi Minamino wasted glorious
chances to add to the score before Salah did just that in the final minute.
It came from more strong play by Firmino, who held off
defender Jack Stephens before squaring for his Egyptian team-mate to score with
an untidy, deflected shot.
“The attitude and the mentality of the boys made it
possible we could win this game. It looked not only tricky –- Southampton is
too good to be a banana skin –- but it looked today it would probably
happen,” Klopp said.
“The boys put a sensational shift in. Everyone went to
the point and beyond. We didn’t want to have a 22-point difference today. We
wanted to have 73 points.”