James Milner and Joel Matip stood out as Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1 to lead the Premier League title race until the final day.
Southampton started the game strong, forcing Alisson Becker into an early save before beating the Liverpool keeper in the 13th minute. The Saints took the lead through Nathan Redmond, who produced a searing run down the left flank before cutting unchallenged and curling his effort into the top corner, courtesy of a minor deflection from James Milner.
But Liverpool regained control of the proceedings afterwards, fending off Southampton before leveling 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 chances to take the lead, with Roberto Firmino, Jota and Harvey Elliott all close to the goal. The Reds finally took the lead midway through the second half when Joel Matip instinctively nodded in Kostas Tsimikas’ deflected corner, his header going over the outstretched arms of Alex McCarthy.
Southampton had one last chance to pull themselves together level but Liverpool held on to clinch all three points and lead the Premier League title race until the final day. The gap between them and Manchester City narrowed to one point after the Citizens’ 2-2 draw with West Ham United. The Hard Tackle now rules the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Alisson Becker: 6/10
Alisson had almost nothing to do in the game after making a quick save. But he had no chance of stopping curler Nathan Redmond after he deflected James Milner. The Brazilian keeper had almost nothing else to do, with Liverpool firmly in control for the rest of the game.
Joe Gomez: 6/10
Gomez let Redmond step in unchallenged before scoring the opener, and it was the only time he needed to defend in the game. The Englishman didn’t look as threatening in his forays down the right flank but played his part in the equaliser, finding Diogo Jota before the Portugal international freed Takumi Minamino. But Gomez’s night was cut short when he suffered an ankle injury which forced him off at half-time.
Joel Matip: 8/10
8 – Joel Matip has finished on the winning side in all eight Premier League appearances when he has scored, while he has lost just 10 of his 125 Premier League appearances (8%), the lowest ratio one of 1,081 players to appear at least 100 times in the history of the competition. Dominant. pic.twitter.com/uNR7yutSbT
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 17, 2022
Matip hardly made a mistake at the back and made several crucial interventions. The veteran defender was also successful on all but four of his passing attempts, helping to build up the play smartly from the back. More importantly, he instinctively headed the ball towards the winner with his looping effort to clinch all three points.
Ibrahima Konate: 7/10
Konaté let Armando Broja pass him early in the game, but that was the only blow in an otherwise dominant performance from the youngster. He never let the Chelsea loanee beat him again while delivering several impressive defensive moves – four clearances, two interceptions and one block.
Kostas Tsimikas: 7/10
Tsimikas initially endured a few nervous moments but quickly grew in the game, establishing himself as Liverpool’s creative hub. For much of the game, it looked like Andrew Robertson was commanding Liverpool’s left flank, but with an even more impressive delivery from the wing. The Greek also delivered the deflected corner which Matip converted for the winner.
Harvey Elliot: 7/10
Elliott started in the Premier League for the first time since suffering an ankle injury against Leeds in September. And the youngster looked to make up for lost time, advancing with determination while opening up Southampton’s defense with momentum. He also came close to scoring but found the side netting. It was a decent display overall.
James Milner: 8/10
James Milner v 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, Milner is still capable of leading a Premier League game. pic.twitter.com/4rdsCgFApW
– The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) May 17, 2022
Milner started at the base of Liverpool’s midfield as Klopp decided to give Jordan Henderson a break. And the veteran midfielder controlled the proceedings superbly while showing a desire to carve out openings in the final third, playing six key passes.
He was unlucky to see Redmond’s effort deflect him for the opener, but it was the only forgettable moment in an imposing display. He settled in well at right-back after Gomez was substituted.
Curtis Jones: 7/10
Jones started the game slowly as Southampton forced him to take a risk-free approach initially. But the England Under-21 international progressed through the proceedings as the minutes went by, pushing Liverpool forward while maintaining a 93% success rate. He will be looking forward to another opportunity by the end of the season.
Takumi Minamino: 7/10
Minamino got a rare Premier League start but suffered a forgettable start to the game as he was anonymous for the first quarter. But he came out of nowhere to score Liverpool’s equalizer, beating Alex McCarthy from a tight angle. After that, he continued to connect well with his teammates and barely misplaced a pass.
Takumi Minamino has recorded 11 shots on target this season.
He scored 10 goals! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/RJqxE3wDPF
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) May 17, 2022
Roberto Firmino: 6/10
Firmino had glorious chances to find the back of the net, but his decision making let him down. The Brazil international showed his typical linking abilities and played three key passes but some of his touches were useless. It was perhaps 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 Portugal international made amends by setting up Minamino for the equaliser. There were a few sloppy touches here and there, but he showed positive signs with his link-up play.
Jordan Henderson: 7/10
Henderson replaced the injured Gomez at half-time and affirmed Liverpool’s stronghold of the game. The Liverpool captain completed 92% of his passing attempts while opening play well with several long balls.
Divock Original: 6/10
Origi barely saw the ball after coming on for Elliott, managing to complete just four assists, as Liverpool looked to see the game after scoring shortly after his arrival.
Naby Keita: N/A
A late introduction, Keita helped see the game come out.