Destiny beckons for Reds

Top: Southampton's Shane Long putting the hosts ahead after just nine minutes in their match against Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on Friday. Above: Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson scoring their third goal against Southampton. The Reds won 3-1.
Southampton's Shane Long putting the hosts ahead after just nine minutes in their match against Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on Friday.PHOTO: REUTERS PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Top: Southampton's Shane Long putting the hosts ahead after just nine minutes in their match against Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on Friday. Above: Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson scoring their third goal against Southampton. The Reds won 3-1.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson scoring their third goal against Southampton. The Reds won 3-1.

Klopp hails team's fighting spirit as Salah's solo effort sparks comeback against Saints

LONDON • Jurgen Klopp has issued the magic number of "90-something" points if Liverpool are to lift the Premier League title this season and end 29 years of hurt.

He set the target after the Reds' late rally at Southampton to secure a 3-1 victory on Friday, re-establishing a two-point advantage at the top of the table over defending champions Manchester City.

It was far from easy for Klopp's men, who were rarely at their best at St Mary's after being confronted by awkward opponents, but it is nights like these that will only pep belief the long wait is almost over.

In this tussle at the top, they will not be the first to blink after Mohamed Salah's first goal since mid-February and Jordan Henderson in the last 10 minutes sealed the win.

Shane Long had grabbed the opener, only for Naby Keita to equalise with his maiden strike since joining Liverpool.

Purring after a "brilliant" comeback, Klopp, who joined in the celebrations after the final whistle, said: "We have 82 points, that is massive in this crazy league and everyone is waiting for us (to slip up). I am really proud. It is incredible.

"It is a difficult year for everybody, you'll need to have 70 to 75 points to qualify for the Champions League. But we are still in the race and that is nice.

  • LIVERPOOL'S SEASON IN NUMBERS

    20 

    Goals in the final 15 minutes of games this season, more than any other Premier League side.

    16 

    Points gained from losing positions, also more than any other side.

    82 

    Points is Liverpool's highest tally after 33 games.

    38

    Away points (W11 D5 L1), the best haul ahead of Tottenham's 33.

    16 

    Matches unbeaten at their Anfield home this season (W14 D 2).

"They deserved their early goal but we adjusted to the situation, stayed calm and waited for our moment. We had to be more lively in the second half, when Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum were struggling with the intensity of the season.

"But James Milner and Henderson came on, brought aggressiveness - verbal aggressiveness - and we had direction again after that."

The two substitutions were highlighted by pundit and former Reds defender Jamie Carragher, who told Sky Sports they were "massive" and "a great decision" at a point when their "passing at times in the game was a bit too slow".

While the Liverpool boss admitted the performance was "not at the top level", Klopp praised his side for showing grit, insisting that "at this stage, it is about fighting".

  • PREMIER LEAGUE 2018-19 TITLE RUN-IN

    LIVERPOOL 

    APRIL 14 Chelsea (h) 

    APRIL 21 Cardiff (a)

    APRIL 26 Huddersfield (h)

    MAY 5 Newcastle (a) 

    MAY 12 Wolves (h) 

  • MAN CITY 

    APRIL 14 Crystal Palace (a) 

    APRIL 20 Tottenham (h) 

    APRIL 24 Man United (a) 

    APRIL 28 Burnley (a) 

    MAY 4 Leicester (h) 

    MAY 12 Brighton (a)

Declaring his team "will play our own football" as they enter the home stretch with five games remaining, the German said: "People want us to play like Manchester City but we are unable to do that.

"I told the boys we have a good mentality among us. We were well-organised, we pressed high and were everywhere on the pitch."

He also hailed Salah, who had been questioned before the match, claiming his class was "never in doubt", adding: "It was goal number 50 I heard for Liverpool, that's an incredible number.

"As a striker, you have chances and each striker is a human being. Maybe you have better moments and less good moments.

"But he's pretty consistent, his physical things are always there. He always stayed calm to deal with the situation."

And defender Virgil van Dijk, who was again a rock on his return to his former club, fired a warning to the rest of the teams that have yet to play Liverpool this term, starting with Chelsea next Sunday, that "with the players we have, with the way we play, we are always going to be dangerous with".

NO LETTING OFF

We've got to win every game. This was very big. Every game is massive. It was a big performance in the second half and a big result.

JORDAN HENDERSON , Liverpool captain, calling on his men to seize their chance of ending their league title drought.

KUDOS, GUYS

We have 82 points, that is massive in this crazy league and everyone is waiting for us (to slip up). I am really proud. It is incredible.

JURGEN KLOPP , Liverpool manager, purring after his side's brilliant comeback.

He added: "I do enjoy it (the pressure), obviously, I do not like conceding, but we showed character. The most important thing is to just keep on doing what we've been doing all season."

Henderson agreed with his teammate's assertion that their battling qualities were for all to see, before calling on the squad to make a final push and give the red half of Merseyside the present they have long desired.

It has been an unrelenting campaign with plenty of drama - the title lead has changed hands 25 times this season, the joint second most in a campaign since 1945.

But, with the finish line in sight, Henderson stressed this was a golden chance for his team.

The skipper, who scored his first goal of the campaign, said: "We've got to win every game. It was a big performance in the second half and a big result.

"I haven't got in those positions often this season because I've been in a deeper role. The manager felt I could get in the final-third positions more. No matter what happens in the game, we still fight right until the very end.

"That is what we have been doing for a long time now, and we need to keep that mentality going and not stopping until that final whistle goes."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 07, 2019, with the headline 'Destiny beckons for Reds'. Print Edition | Subscribe