James Milner and Joel Matip stood out as Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1 to take the Premier League title race to the final day.
Southampton started the game strongly, forcing Alisson Becker to make an early save before beating the Liverpool goalkeeper in the 13th minute. The Saints went ahead through Nathan Redmond, who produced a blistering run through the left flank before cutting in unchallenged and curling his effort into the top corner, thanks to a minor deflection off James Milner.
But Liverpool wrested control over the proceedings after that, pinning Southampton back before levelling things up in the 27th minute. Joe Gomez pushed Liverpool forward before finding Diogo Jota, who released Takumi Minamino for a brilliant finish from a tight angle.
Liverpool had several opportunities to take the lead, with Roberto Firmino, Jota and Harvey Elliott all coming close to scoring. The Reds finally went ahead midway through the second half when Joel Matip instinctively nodded in Kostas Tsimikas’s deflected corner, with his header looping over the outstretched arms of Alex McCarthy.
Southampton had one last chance to pull themselves back on level terms, but Liverpool held on to clinch all three points and take the Premier League title race to the final day. The gap between them and Manchester City is back down to one point after the Citizens’ 2-2 draw with West Ham United. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Alisson Becker: 6/10
Alisson barely had anything to do in the game after making an early save. But he had no chance to stop Nathan Redmond’s curler after it took a deflection off James Milner. The Brazilian goalkeeper barely had anything to do otherwise, with Liverpool firmly in control for the rest of the game.
Joe Gomez: 6/10
Gomez let Redmond cut in unchallenged before scoring the opener, and that was the only moment he needed to defend in the game. The Englishman did not look as threatening in his forays down the right flank, but he played his part in the equaliser, finding Diogo Jota before the Portuguese international released Takumi Minamino. But Gomez’s night was cut short when he picked up an ankle injury which forced him to go off at half-time.
Joel Matip: 8/10
8 – Joel Matip has ended on the winning side in all eight Premier League matches when he's scored, while he's only lost 10 of his 125 Premier League appearances (8%), the lowest ratio of any of the 1,081 players to appear at least 100 times in the competition's history. Dominant. pic.twitter.com/uNR7yutSbT
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 17, 2022
Matip barely put a foot wrong at the back and completed several crucial interventions. The veteran defender also completed all but four of his attempted passes, helping build play smartly from the back. More importantly, he instinctively headed the ball in for the winner with his looping effort to clinch all three points.
Ibrahima Konate: 7/10
Konate let Armando Broja drift past him early in the game, but that was the only blip in an otherwise dominant performance by the youngster. He never let the Chelsea loanee beat him again while completing several impressive defensive actions – four clearances, two interceptions and one block.
Kostas Tsimikas: 7/10
Tsimikas endured a few nervy moments initially, but he grew into the game rapidly, establishing himself as the creative hub for Liverpool. For much of the game, it seemed as if Andrew Robertson was commanding the Liverpool left flank, albeit with an even more impressive delivery from the wing. The Greek also delivered the deflected corner that Matip converted for the winner.
Harvey Elliott: 7/10
Elliott started in the Premier League for the first time since sustaining his ankle injury against Leeds in September. And the youngster looked to make up for lost time, pushing forward with purpose while slicing open the Southampton defence with elan. He also came close to scoring but found the side netting. It was a decent display overall.
James Milner: 8/10
James Milner vs. Southampton
93% Pass accuracy
4/4 Accurate long passes
6 Chances created
1/2 Shots on target
8/10 Duels won
4/4 Tackles won
Make no mistake, at 36 years old Milner is still capable of bossing a Premier League game. pic.twitter.com/4rdsCgFApW
— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) May 17, 2022
Milner started at the base of the Liverpool midfield as Klopp decided to give Jordan Henderson a breather. And the veteran midfielder controlled the proceedings superbly while showing the desire to carve out the openings in the final third, playing a game-high six key passes.
He was unlucky to see Redmond’s effort deflect off him for the opener, but that was the only forgettable moment in a commanding display. He settled in well at right-back after Gomez’s substitution.
Curtis Jones: 7/10
Jones started the game slowly as Southampton forced him to adopt a risk-free approach initially. But the England under-21 international grew into the proceedings as the minutes wore on, pushing Liverpool forward while retaining a 93 per cent passing rate. He will look forward to another opportunity between now and the end of the season.
Takumi Minamino: 7/10
Minamino earned a rare start in the Premier League but endured a forgettable start to the game, as he was anonymous for the opening quarter. But he popped up out of nowhere to score the equaliser for Liverpool, beating Alex McCarthy from a tight angle. After that, he continued to link up well with his teammates and barely misplaced a pass.
Takumi Minamino has registered 11 shots on target this season.
He's scored 10 goals! ? pic.twitter.com/RJqxE3wDPF
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) May 17, 2022
Roberto Firmino: 6/10
Firmino had glorious opportunities to find the back of the net, but his decision making let him down. The Brazilian international showcased his typical link-up abilities and played three key passes, but some of his touches were wasteful. That might have been his last start this season.
Diogo Jota: 7/10
Jota endured a game of hits and misses. He gave the ball away in the build-up to the opener, but he could make his case for being fouled there. However, the Portuguese international made amends by setting Minamino up for the equaliser. There were a few sloppy touches here and there, but he showed some positive signs with his link-up play.
Jordan Henderson: 7/10
Henderson replaced the injured Gomez at half-time and asserted Liverpool’s stronghold on the match. The Liverpool captain completed 92 per cent of his attempted passes while opening up play nicely with several long balls.
Divock Origi: 6/10
Origi barely saw the ball after replacing Elliott, managing to complete only four passes, as Liverpool looked to see the game out after scoring shortly following his arrival.
Naby Keita: N/A
A late introduction, Keita helped see the game out.