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Liverpool lead the title race until the final day after Joel Matip’s header saw Southampton | premier league

Liverpool lead the title race until the final day after Joel Matip’s header saw Southampton | premier league

Liverpool go the distance. And so it is with their quest for premier league Title. It’s a standout detail of their season that they will play every game in the four main competitions, with the Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday set to be the last. Before that – and with the domestic cups already secured – they will attempt to complete the third leg of an unprecedented quadruple.

They will still need league leaders Manchester City to slide at home to Aston Villa on the final day on Sunday and what a scenario that could be. City have injury problems in defense and one Liverpudlian in particular will want to capitalize – Villa manager Steven Gerrard.

Liverpool will have to beat Wolves at home and hope City draw or lose but it will go to the wire after Jürgen Klopp’s side proved too strong for Southampton. Klopp rotated a lot, keeping only Alisson and Ibrahima Konaté out of the line-up that started the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday and, for the first 20 minutes, they struggled. Southampton were brilliant and they led through Nathan Redmond.

But afterwards, it was an exercise in liverpool Takumi Minamino, who was on loan at Southampton last season, equalized and, although Joel Matip’s winner was undermined by an element of fortune, he had come. Liverpool came to dominate the ball and there was only one team asking the questions in the final third.

Matip’s header was infuriating for Southampton, who had shown resilience but could not avoid an eighth defeat in 11 league games. Their season ended but, as Ralph Hasenhüttl noted a little early before kick-off, they were never close to a relegation battle and a handful of clubs would gladly swap places with them.

Takumi Minamino equalizes for Liverpool at Southampton
Takumi Minamino equalizes for Liverpool at Southampton. Photography: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Matip had his feet planted as a Kostas Tsimikas corner kicked off Mohamed Elyounoussi and headed towards him and Southampton full-back Kyle Walker-Peters. It was hard to tell which player headed the ball first, but the trick was played in the far corner.

It was Liverpool’s No.61 game of the season – their third since May 7, when Southampton last played – and Klopp was always going to make changes. But it was still surprising how many. Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah missed the shots while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mané did not travel.

It was a balancing act for Klopp, with his calculations factoring in the likelihood of City spoiling the final day and the possibility of injury ahead of the Champions League final. In the absence of a crystal ball, he backed up the strength of his saves; the “Ferraris in the garage” as he described them. They came purring, not without a misfire at the start.

Klopp fumed on the touchline because when Lyanco started the move for Redmond’s goal, he appeared to go through Diogo Jota to get to the ball. No foul, said referee Martin Atkinson. The home side worked down the left through Nathan Tella and it was immediately clear what Redmond had in mind. Cut inside and try the curler for the furthest corner. The shot got there, with the help of a slight deflection from James Milner.

Southampton’s departure was impressive. They were 5-4-1 without the ball, Redmond at left-back, Tella in left midfield but both tried to push on the counter. Armando Broja ran the canals hard.

Liverpool set about repairing the damage and what pleased Klopp the most was how they took the setback in their stride. Roberto Firmino thought he had equalized with a header into the far corner from a Tsimikas free-kick only to have the offside flag raised late against him. Then Minamino scored.

Diogo Jota celebrates and Divock Origi hopes as Southampton's Alex McCarthy stretches and fails to prevent Joel Matip's winning goal.
Diogo Jota celebrates and Divock Origi hopes as Southampton’s Alex McCarthy stretches and fails to prevent Joel Matip’s winning goal. Photography: James Marsh/Shutterstock

It was an explosive finish from the winger, whipped high into the near top corner after a neat move that set Southampton apart. Joe Gomez’s ball from the right found Jota and his layoff ushered in Minamino. The angle was tight and Minamino’s first two touches took it a bit wider. It wasn’t a problem. Alex McCarthy could only feel the heat of the finish.

It was pretty much all Liverpool afterwards, with Firmino particularly keen and elusive up front. They hunkered down high and it was all Southampton could do to escape their own half. Milner worked McCarthy from range and Firmino whipped a surge. Jota would lose a decent chance after the interval as Harvey Elliott slotted into the side netting.

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Hasenhüttl was angry at Elyounoussi’s failure to clear the decisive corner at the near post and Southampton were in no real threat of an equaliser. Klopp had lost Gomez to injury at the end of the first half but the manager suggested it wasn’t too bad. Once again, he ended the evening by extolling the virtues of his special squad.

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