Takumi Minamino produced a ‘fantastic’ finish during Liverpool’s 2-1 Premier League win away at Southampton on Tuesday night, Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl admits in conversation with Sky Sports.
Now, it might not have got Martin Tyler’s blood rushing but, as the visiting support let out a roar of relief just before the half hour mark at St Mary’s, Liverpool’s seldom-seen Japan international repaid Jurgen Klopp’s faith with interest while coming back to haunt his old employers.
On his first league start for the Merseyside giants since December 2020, Minamino latched onto a neat Diogo Jota lay-off, shifted the ball onto his right foot and lashed a rasping strike past Alex McCarthy, cancelling out Nathan Redmond’s early opener.
Blink and you’d miss it. McCarthy certainly did.
Now, goalkeepers usually face their fair share of criticism when being beaten at their near post. The fact that no one blamed McCarthy, as Minamino drew Liverpool level on the night, speaks volumes about the sheer quality of the Japan international’s finish.
As firm as it was fearsome.
Southampton 1-2 Liverpool; Takumi Minamino the hero
“You cannot defend all the time,” sighs Hasenhuttl, who’s Southampton side have now lost eight of their last 11 games.
“We tried to stay in the game for as long as possible and we had a perfect start, but conceded a perfect goal. It’s still not good enough defending in the box when you have so many players around.
“Taki does it fantastic, but it is too simple.”
With Jota, Luis Diaz, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi and even Harvey Elliott for competition, Minamino has had to bide his time at Anfield. But with ten goals in just nine starts across all competitions this season, no one could question the 27-year-old’s professionalism or his ability to make an impact when required.
Minamino’s stunning equaliser, coupled with Joel Matip’s second half winner, means Liverpool have taken the Premier League title race right down to the wire.