Liverpool's relentless pursuit of a maiden Premier League title continued with a somewhat flattering 4-0 win over Southampton at Anfield.
Following a poor first half which saw the Reds fail to get going, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain eased any lingering nerves with a drilled finish in the opening minutes of the second period to put Liverpool ahead. Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah then made the points safe with two goals in 12 minutes, before Salah bundled home in injury time to add some extra gloss to the scoreline.
It could well have been a nervy second half after a poor showing in the opening 45 minutes, but after Oxlade-Chamberlain's excellent opener, there was never any doubt as to who would be coming away from Anfield with the points.
Jurgen Klopp's side don't normally come up against a traditional 4-4-2, and the combination of Shane Long and Danny Ings up front caused the home side's defence all sorts of problems in the first half. Meanwhile, the players further up the pitch did their defensive counterparts no favours at all with some sloppy passing that gifted the Saints a string of openings.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- The German won't have been overly impressed with what was a fairly average Liverpool display, but a half-time talking-to was just the tonic for a Reds side that struggled in the first half but raced to victory in the second.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 6 -- Given something to think about in the 27th minute when he parried over a Moussa Djenepo strike from distance, but the Brazilian never had a seriously testing save to make.
DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 6 -- Played his part in the Reds' second goal with a first-time crossfield pass to release Roberto Firmino into space, and had a relatively quiet afternoon defensively against the speedy Nathan Redmond.
DF Joe Gomez, 6 -- A poor headed clearance landed straight at the feet of Long for a Southampton chance, and that wasn't the only time Gomez struggled against the two-man Saints forward line in the first half. Vastly improved in the second 45.
DF Virgil van Dijk, 6 -- Forced an excellent save from goalkeeper Alex McCarthy just before the half-hour mark after the Dutchman stayed up following a set piece, and although he wasn't at his vintage best, a clean sheet is a clean sheet.
DF Andy Robertson, 6 -- We didn't see much of the left-back as an attacking force until the start of the second half when he occupied two Southampton defenders to create space for Oxlade-Chamberlain to fire home the opener. Defensively, he was kept busy by the slippery Djenepo, but stuck to his task well.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 6 -- Wasted a chance to provide a telling final ball towards the end of the first half when he passed straight to the Southampton defenders when in a great position, and like many of his teammates, it wasn't his best afternoon. Was withdrawn for Takumi Minamino in the 81st minute.
MF Fabinho, 6 -- The Brazilian will have had his heart in his mouth when he appeared to trip Ings in the penalty area, but the referee waved play on and Liverpool raced down the other end and scored their opener. That aside, Fabinho grew into the game, and also broke up a Southampton attack in the build-up to Liverpool's fourth.
MF Jordan Henderson, 7 -- The Reds skipper had a frustrating first hour of the game against a Southampton midfield that caused problems, but he was on hand to fire home Liverpool's second, providing a superb ball for Salah to poke home the third. Brought off in the closing stages for Adam Lallana.
MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 6 -- Sloppiness in possession released Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg for one of many Southampton first-half chances, before he dusted himself down at half-time and fired Liverpool ahead with a drilled finish from 20 yards. Subbed off for Naby Keita in the 73rd minute.
FW Mohamed Salah, 8 -- It looked like being one of those days for Salah, especially after he had a goal ruled out for offsides but the Egyptian wasn't to be denied. He was released on goal by Henderson and confidently dinked the ball home for 3-0, before completing his brace in the closing minutes with a scruffy goal from in close.
FW Roberto Firmino, 7 -- Should really have scored from point-blank range when following up from Van Dijk's chance on 30 minutes, but made amends with a lovely flick in the build-up to Oxlade-Chamberlain's opener, followed by a perfectly-weighted pass for Henderson to control and finish for 2-0. There was still time for the Brazilian to pick up a third assist, laying the ball on a silver platter for Salah to complete the rout in the 90th minute.
MF Naby Keita, N/R -- Played a gorgeous slide-rule pass for Firmino that should have resulted in a fourth Liverpool goal.
FW Takumi Minamino, N/R -- Somehow fired over from eight yards out with the goal at his mercy.
MF Adam Lallana, N/R -- Not enough time for the former Southampton man to make a mark.