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Men’s football Top four still on the cards as Liverpool ease past Southampton

LIVERPOOL are once again threatening to break into the Premier League’s top four after a 2-0 victory against Southampton on Saturday evening.

They were helped in their quest by Leicester’s loss to Newcastle on Friday, but still needed to get the job done against a Saints side to whom they lost 1-0 on the south coast earlier in the season.

Sixth-place Liverpool are now six points behind Leicester with a game in hand and, along with West Ham, who currently sit fifth, have a much easier run-in than Brendan Rodgers’s side.

It promises to be a tense end to the season as all three vie for a place at Europe’s top table.

The important goal against Southampton arrived when Mohamed Salah assisted Sadio Mane with just over half an hour gone, crossing from the right for the Senegalese to head home at the far post.

It was one of numerous chances the Reds had in the first half, and for a while it looked like it would be another game in which they would fail to take their opportunities when they arose.

But a late Thiago strike sealed a win that was not always guaranteed as Southampton posed a threat to Liverpool’s high line.

Jurgen Klopp’s side will have been pleased with the clean sheet given the circumstances in which it was earned. They now have five central defenders out injured, including January signings Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak, so were left with the inexperienced pairing of Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams.

The duo are not especially suited to Liverpool’s high line, and Williams was almost caught out by Nathan Tella on a couple of occasions, but they did an admirable job in the circumstances.

They had plenty of help from Alisson, behind them in the Liverpool goal, who was awarded man of the match thanks to a number of crucial saves, and from defensive midfielder Fabinho in front of them.

Thiago was impressive alongside the Brazilian in midfield and wrapped up the three points late in the game with his first goal for the club.The summer signing from Bayern Munich was pleased to get off the mark, but everyone at the club is focused on winning the remaining games to give them the best chance of finishing in the top four.

“It’s always a great moment when you score and also help the team, but we have to keep fighting until the end,” the Spaniard said after the game.

“We try to be as objective as possible. There is a very small chance [of Champions League qualification] but we also had chances in the past. 

“The door sometimes closed for us, but the window is open, so we try to get through the window!

“It’s an amazing feeling, but the most important thing is the three points and that we keep fighting for this small miracle that we can have.”

Liverpool end the season with games against Manchester United, West Brom, Burnley and a final home game against Crystal Palace, at which fans will be in attendance.

Attention now turns to that rescheduled fixture at Manchester United, which could set the tone for the final few games.

“The only thing we can do is keep winning our games,” said Klopp. “But that’s really tough because we play Manchester United on Thursday and that’s historically not easy — but we will give it a try.”


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