With Jurgen Klopp watching from the stands at Anfield, Darwin Nunez ensured Liverpool were victorious against Southampton.
With Jurgen Klopp watching from the stands on Saturday due to his one-match ban, Liverpool claimed a victory that lifts them to sixth in the Premier League.
It wasn’t always going to be easy as Che Adams scored Southampton’s first goal under new boss Nathan Jones to cancel out Roberto Firmino’s opener.
But Nunez, who will feature for Uruguay in Qatar, bookended a thrilling opening 21 minutes to make it 2-1, his second goal late in the first half enough to secure the points.
Firmino was left out of Brazil’s World Cup squad this week but continued his fine scoring form after six minutes when his looping header caught Gavin Bazuna flat-footed.
However, Liverpool’s lead lasted just three minutes, James Ward-Prowse’s wonderful free-kick headed home by Adams.
Bazunu prevented Liverpool from restoring the lead with a brilliant save in the 16th minute when he raced out to deny Mohammed Salah, but he could do nothing to stop Nunez making it 2-1 when he nudged home Harvey Elliot’s weighted through ball.
Nunez had his second just before the break when he slipped and deflected Robertson’s cross beyond Bazuna.
Salah headed in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross and Liverpool would have been punished had Alisson not denied Mohamed Elyounoussi at the other end.
Liverpool wanted a penalty when Salah went down after testing Bazun, although another superb Alisson stop – this time diving to his right to keep out Adams’ header – ensured the hosts didn’t have a nervy finish.
Liverpool vs Southampton player ratings – Premier League
1. Liverpool (4-3-1-2)
GK: Alisson – 7/10 – Hardly at fault for the concession of Adams’ close-range header but made a characteristic burst of crucial stops in the second half.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 5/10 – Lurked on the peripheries of the contest.
CB: Joe Gomez – 4/10 – Allowed Adams to sneak away from him for Southampton’s equaliser far too easily.
CB: Virgil van Dijk – 7/10 – Up against his former employers, Van Dijk was as unflappable as ever.
LB: Andy Robertson – 8/10 – Bounding up and down the left flank at will, Robertson’s passing was a probing threat from open play and dead balls.
CM: Harvey Elliott – 6/10 – Tiptoeing around midfield, Elliott rarely misjudged the weight of his often penetrative passes. Faded after the interval.
CM: Fabinho – 5/10 – A little lackadaisical at times but swept up at the base of midfield without much fuss.
CM: Thiago Alcantara – 6/10 – Everything went through Thiago as he was desperate to have as many touches of the ball – regularly with the sole of his boot – as possible.
RW: Mohamed Salah – 5/10 – Flitting in and out of the match, Salah struggled to make a lasting impression on proceedings.
ST: Roberto Firmino – 8/10 – Wreaking havoc as he floated menacingly between the lines.
LW: Darwin Nunez – 8/10 – Scarcely allowed Southampton’s beleaguered backline rest, driving in off the left flank.
SUB: James Milner (68′ for Elliott) – 5/10 – On his 600th Premier League appearance, Milner stiffened up Liverpool’s midfield.
SUB: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (75′ for Firmino) – N/A
SUB: Kostas Tsimikas (86′ for Robertson) – N/A
SUB: Nathaniel Phillips (87′ for Alexander-Arnold) – N/A
SUB: Fabio Carvalho (87′ for Nunez) – N/A
Manager: Jurgen Klopp – 5/10 – Watching on from the stands, the suspended Klopp had a great view to see his side produce a clinical first half and benefit from Southampton’s lack of cutting edge after the break.
2. Southampton (3-5-2)
GK: Gavin Bazunu – 5/10 – A display which incorporated interventions at both ends of the quality scale.
CB: Armel Bella-Kotchap – 3/10 – Caught ball-watching as he failed to spot the rather sizeable Nunez wandering into Southampton’s box.
CB: Duje Caleta-Car – 4/10 – Booked within the opening five minutes for one of the few challenges that even remotely set Liverpool’s forwards off their stride.
CB: Mohammed Salisu – 5/10 – Increasingly struggled to deal with Salah’s pace as the second half wore on.
RWB: Mohamed Elyounoussi – 4/10 – Not entirely committed to closing down Robertson, Elyounoussi was often and obviously caught in two minds.
CM: James Ward-Prowse – 6/10 – Underlined his revered reputation as a set-piece expert with an excellent first-half assist.
CM: Romeo Lavia – 6/10 – Remained calm amid the thunderous flood of bodies in midfield with a performance which belied his 18 years of age.
CM: Stuart Armstrong – 4/10 – Forced to cover a lot of ground laterally in a three-man midfield stretched across the pitch.
LWB: Romain Perraud – 5/10 – Continued to push forward even when Southampton shuffled into a back-four after the interval.
ST: Adam Armstrong – 5/10 – Enthusiastically buzzed into a press without much reward.
ST: Che Adams – 6/10 – Took his goal well but was left to feed on scraps thereafter.
SUB: Theo Walcott (59′ for S Armstrong) – 5/10
SUB: Samuel Edozie (59′ for A Armstrong) – 5/10
SUB: Ainsley Maitland-Niles (59′ for Caleta-Car) – 5/10
SUB: Lyanco (73′ for Bella-Kotchap) – N/A
SUB: Joe Aribo (82′ for Lavia) – N/A
Manager: Nathan Jones – 5/10 – There were green shoots amid the sea of red which swarmed his side. Not afraid to change the system mid-game but will benefit from the upcoming mini-preseason to calibrate his side’s press.