Henderson doubles Liverpool's late lead
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah called scoring his 50th Premier League goal "special" but focused on Friday's 3-1 win over Southampton that saw the Reds go back top of the Premier League standings.
After falling behind early in the game at St. Mary's Stadium, Liverpool needed goals from Naby Keita, Salah, and Jordan Henderson to clinch the win and leapfrog Manchester City for first place.
The goal was especially a relief for Salah, who hadn't scored in nine matches. Salah collected the ball 10 metres inside his own half on a counterattack, sprinted forward and sent a dipping shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
"After nine games [without scoring], I'm very happy to score a goal to help the team," the Egypt international told Sky Sports. "That's the most important thing for us."
Liverpool player ratings: Salah to the rescue in 8/10 showing
Roberto Firmino had appeared as an option on Salah's left on the play, but when asked if he ever pondered squaring the ball to his Brazilian teammate, Salah replied: "Not at all!
"I think as a striker you need to score. Always, I'm thinking to score.
"I just took my decision to shoot the ball and score. I'm happy about it."
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp agreed with Salah's decision to keep the ball while lauding the "Egyptian King" for reaching the 50-goal milestone.
"Mo Salah could not pass for his goal," Klopp said in a post-match news conference. "Go, go, go, and a world-class finish."
With 18 league goals, Salah is one behind Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero in his bid to retain the Golden Boot for top scorer in the league.
"As a striker, you have chances and each striker is a human being -- maybe you have better moments and less good moments," Klopp said of Salah. "But he is pretty consistent, his physical things are always there. He always stayed calm to deal with the situation."
Liverpool looked shaky at times, especially in the first half after Southampton took the lead through Shane Long's ninth-minute goal.
Klopp's team recovered to draw level in the 36th through Keita's first goal for the club, from Trent Alexander-Arnold's right-wing cross, since his offseason move from RB Leipzig.
"The performance was not top level, but it is about fighting," Klopp said. "People want us to play like Manchester City. We are unable to do that. We play our own football.
"We have 82 points now. That is massive in this crazy league and everyone is waiting for us. I am really proud. It is incredible."
Henderson proved to be a calming influence for Liverpool after coming on for Georginio Wijnaldum in the 59th minute. The captain had an end product, too, gliding into the area to meet Firmino's cross with a firm finish from close range.
"It was very big. Every game is massive. We've got to win every game. I thought we showed great character in the first half," Henderson told Sky Sports. "It was a big performance in the second half and a big result."
Information from Reuters and the Associated Press was used in this report.
Liverpool ground out another hard-fought win, beating Southampton 3-1 on Friday, to return to the top of the table. For the third game in a row they found themselves in danger of dropping points as the game went into its closing stages, and for the third game in a row they found a way to win.
Mohamed Salah finally notched his 50th Premier League goal for the club after eight games without scoring. Liverpool will hope that will get him firing again for the title run-in.
The start wasn't good, and Liverpool seemed unprepared for the intensity with which Southampton came at them. They deservedly fell behind, and against better opposition it might have cost them. It's a minor gripe though, as this was a great night for the club.
9 -- Perhaps the only criticism of Jurgen Klopp has been his inability to use his substitutes to change the course of a game that isn't going well. That wasn't the case here, as the double introduction of Jordan Henderson and James Milner gave Liverpool a huge boost. Southampton caused Liverpool a lot of problems in the first half, but whatever adjustments Klopp made at half-time did the job. All in all, a good night's work for the German.
GK Alisson, 6 -- The Brazilian had no chance with the Southampton goal and had virtually nothing to do for the rest of the game. Generally solid with his kicking.
DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 6 -- Erratic performance from the youngster. Some of his passing was glorious, some of it was dreadful. Produced a brilliant cross to create the equaliser but had some problems defensively against Nathan Redmond and was replaced by Milner after an hour.
DF Joel Matip, 7 -- Composed display. Made one excellent intervention to deny Redmond and was always positive with his passing into the front players. Also made a couple of trademark forays forward. One led to a good chance, the other saw him run into trouble and allow a Southampton counter. Overall another good performance though.
DF Virgil van Dijk, 7 -- Booed throughout by the home crowd, and for a while it looked like it might be a miserable return to St Mary's for the big Dutchman. He had the last laugh in the end, though, as the Reds completely nullified the threat of the home side in the second half and went home with the three points.
DF Andy Robertson, 6 -- Provided great energy as usual, but some of his crossing was well below his usual standard. Also had one or two difficult moments defensively, which is not like him at all. Booked late on after getting the wrong side of his man and fouling him.
MF Fabinho, 6 -- Struggled in the first half as Southampton seemed to catch Liverpool by surprise with their intense pressing. The Brazilian was left trying to plug too many holes, but Klopp made the necessary adjustments and Fabinho looked much more like his usual self after the break.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 6 -- Nowhere near his best. Didn't influence the game with or without the ball, and it was little surprise when he made way for Henderson.
MF Naby Keita, 7 -- Started poorly but grew into the game and seemed to take confidence after finally getting off the mark with his first goal for the club. Should have been awarded a penalty, too, when he surged into the box and was brought down.
FW Roberto Firmino, 8 -- For much of the game he was not at his best, but the Brazilian was huge in his defensive work and headed away countless set pieces. The longer it went, the more his influence grew in attack, and he did superbly to create the third goal for Henderson. A big performance from him.
FW Sadio Mane, 8 -- Lively without really impacting the game as much as he'd have liked. Brought a save from Angus Gunn with a first-half header and clearly had the beating of his marker throughout, but too often nothing came from his good work. Played his part in the crucial second goal with a key block to spring the counter from which Salah scored.
FW Mohamed Salah, 8 -- For 80 minutes it had been more frustration for the Egyptian, who had been well shackled by the Saints and not had a sight of goal. Then out of nothing he exploded into life from a trademark Liverpool counterattack. He could have passed to Firmino but he backed himself to score and did just that. What a finish.
MF Jordan Henderson, 8 -- What an impact from the skipper. Immediately brought an urgency and aggression to the side that had been lacking, and showed great timing to arrive in the box and tap in a perfect Firmino cutback. You could see by his reaction just how much it meant to him.
DF James Milner, 7 -- Given a half-hour run-out at right-back and he made a big difference. Good crossing, clever passing and he locked down a right flank that had looked vulnerable prior to his introduction.
DF Dejan Lovren, N/R -- Sent on for the closing seconds. Booed by the home fans. He won't care.