Southampton vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned
If nothing else, it moved Liverpool ahead of Arsenal in the league table and into second place, cementing their position amongst the teams chasing Champions League qualification.
The traveling Kop saw an inspired performance from Luis Suarez, a more resolute defensive performance thanks to a shift in tactics by Brendan Rodgers, options in Raheem Sterling replacing Philippe Coutinho and important saves by Simon Mignolet—all before signing, "Now you're gonna believe us..."
Suarez Is Still Relentless
Suarez has been quieter in recent games, which has been a testament to Liverpool improving as a team and not over-relying on the Uruguayan international, rather than a dip in form.
Against Southampton, Suarez sprung to life, causing irritating problems for the home side's defenders.
His wonderfully natural finish to score his first goal since Liverpool's 4-0 victory over Everton in January was quickly followed by a jostling on the edge of the box, forcing a foul and winning Liverpool a free-kick in a dangerous position.
In the second-half, the 27-year-old was the catalyst to Liverpool's attacks and looked hungry to add to his 24 goals this season.
Even deep into injury time, Suarez continued to frustrate Southampton's defence, winning a penalty under the challenge of Jose Fonte, which Gerrard duly converted.
Put simply, Suarez is a defender's worst nightmare.
Three in Midfield Helps Plug the Defensive Leak
The decision to start Joe Allen alongside Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in a midfield three meant Liverpool weren't overrun by Southampton's threatening attack.
Although the Saints pressurised for long periods of the game, it was having the extra man in midfield that helped Liverpool remain a tight unit.
The more cautious approach worked with Liverpool keeping their first clean sheet since the end of January, although there is an argument to suggest Allen in for Sterling hindered the Reds' attack at times.
Coutinho Struggles with Change
After really rejuvenating his season by making the role in between midfield and attack his own in recent games, Coutinho had a disappointing game today before he was replaced by Sterling on 56 minutes.
The Brazilian's touch was wayward and he was consistently outmuscled by Southampton's defence.
Without the extra attacker in Sterling to stretch the opposition's defence, Coutinho has less space in which to work his tricky magic.
Mignolet's Saves Are as Important as Goals
Not enough praise is given to Mignolet and the way he has kept Liverpool in games that they have gone on to seemingly comfortably win.
A fine save to shift his body from left low to his right to deny Jay Rodriguez near the end of the first-half ensured Liverpool went into half-time with the lead.
Likewise, just a few minutes into the second-half, Mignolet denied Adam Lallana's left-footed drive.
Had Liverpool conceded at either of those points, the outcome of the game could have been very different.
Sterling Is a Must-Start for Liverpool
Liverpool missed the extra threat that Sterling gives the attack from wide positions until his introduction in the second-half.
The 19-year-old had only been on the pitch for 80 seconds when he slotted home Suarez's low cross to score with his first touch of the game.
The impact of Sterling was down to a superb substitution by Rodgers, waiting until the game was stretched to hit Southampton with the killer blow.
Liverpool Can Win the Premier League
With 10 games left to play, Liverpool are firmly in the Premier League title race and their incredible form since the turn of the year suggests they have as good a chance as anyone.
Whilst the Reds continue to take every game as it comes, starting with an unpredictable away trip to Manchester United on Sunday, March 16th, they will be keeping one eye on their title rivals dropping points.
The ambition at the start of the season was to finish fourth. Now sitting second in the league table, there is no reason why Liverpool cannot be aiming higher.