Five observations from Liverpool's victory at St Mary's

Liverpool won 3-0 against Southampton to move into genuine title contention.

The Reds occupy second place courtesy of the victory ahead of Arsenal on goal difference with Manchester City lurking just behind, armed with two games in hand.

Brendan Rodgers’ men came under plenty of pressure from the Saints but were clinical in taking their chances and managed a clean sheet in a difficult environment.

And so with the stage set for the run-in, following are five observations from the Merseysiders’ victory on the south coast.

Where Sturridge left off, Suarez picked up

Heading into the day, Daniel Sturridge had netted in eight straight Premier League contests whilst Luis Suarez found himself in a bit of a drought without a goal in four appearances. The Englishman’s run would end at St Mary’s but the Uruguayan would pick up where his strike partner left off in netting the first of the game. It’s simply the beauty of the Reds’ situation up front - being able to rely on two steady streams of goals instead of having a single prolific source. And the events at Southampton against the backdrop of Suarez and Sturridge’s recent records were a perfect illustration of how blessed Rodgers is to have both men.

At last a clean sheet, but…

Liverpool hadn’t succeeded in keeping their opponents off the scoresheet since January’s cracking 4-0 derby win over Everton prior to this weekend. Rodgers has increasingly come under fire for his side’s lack of solidity at the back, particularly in the wake of the blazing 4-3 win over Swansea. Southampton weren’t able to break through against the less than the miserly Reds in a point of encouragement, but the signs of a shaky back line remain. In the first half the Saints dominated possession and manipulated the visitors’ defence seemingly at will - suffering from profligacy as Adam Lallana struck the woodwork. On a different day, Liverpool may well have been punished. Mamadou Sakho is back in training and his return will continue to be heavily anticipated.

The impact of Sterling

Southampton were motivated in the aftermath of Suarez’s opener and carried the momentum through the break and into the beginning of the second half. Raheem Sterling coming on for Philippe Coutinho made a noticeable difference in the flow of proceedings, offering an extra outlet on the counter and giving the Saints more to think about at the back. And duly, the teenage sensation handed Liverpool an insurance policy with their second goal just 60 seconds after entering the fray. Sterling’s impact was immediate, decisive and provided Liverpool with a new dimension that was crucial to changing the balance of the encounter.

Away form picking up

The Reds won three of their first 10 away matches on the Premier League fixture list, but have since improved in their travels. Rodgers’ men have claimed 10 of the last 12 points on offer away from Anfield - matching their tally of victories from the initial 10 contests on the road in the process. Manchester United are the last club currently in the top nine on the table that Liverpool will play outside of Merseyside, having knocked out the most difficult trips earlier in the season. From here on out, Liverpool face only more winnable away games and have proven of late they can perform under these circumstances - boding well for the final sprint towards May.

A title challenge is a reality

The debate over whether Rodgers’ charges will ultimately challenge for the title seems to at last be settled with the result at St Mary’s. With 10 games to go on the schedule they sit four points off the leaders in Chelsea but level with Arsenal and are still set to face both the Blues and Manchester City at home. These two encounters put Liverpool in a solid position to challenge for top honours, though it’s not an overstatement to say they’ll have to win both if the trophy is to be within their grasp. At any rate, the Reds will be a factor in deciding who has assumed the summit by the last day of the campaign - but there’s no reason for the Merseysiders to believe the number one spot can’t be theirs even if seizing it will be difficult.

image: © nathan17

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