Cyprus Mail
Premier League

Liverpool leave it late to claim back top spot

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates scoring their third goal with team mates

MOHAMED Salah ended his goal drought in sensational style as Liverpool reclaimed top spot in the Premier League by coming from behind to beat relegation-threatened Southampton 3-1.

Egyptian forward Salah ran from inside his own half to find the net for the first time in nine games, 10 minutes from time, to help the title-chasing Reds move two points ahead of rivals Manchester City.

Substitute Jordan Henderson tapped home a late third to seal the success after Naby Keita’s first goal in English football cancelled out Shane Long’s early opener for the in-form hosts.

With Pep Guardiola’s City in FA Cup semi-final action this weekend, Jurgen Klopp’s men will remain at the summit until they play Chelsea on April 14 at the very least.

Saints, meanwhile, stay five points clear of the drop zone after their two-game winning run was ended.

Resurgent Southampton had failed to find the net in the previous five league meetings between the clubs, with their last top-flight goal against Liverpool coming in March 2016.

They quickly ended that three-year drought as the returning Long, back from a groin injury to replace on-loan striker Danny Ings, who was ineligible against his parent club, opened the scoring inside nine minutes.

Saints captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg arrived in the box in front of Virgil Van Dijk to flick on Ryan Bertrand’s left-wing delivery, leaving the unmarked Long to kill the ball with his first touch and smash into the bottom left corner with his second.

The opener had St Mary’s rocking but former Saints favourite Sadio Mane almost produced an immediate equaliser. His close-range header from Salah’s cross was superbly repelled by Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn, with Keita only able to turn the rebound into the side netting.

Stand-in Liverpool skipper Van Dijk, whose every touch was jeered by the home fans following his £75million switch to Anfield, then narrowly diverted another teasing Bertrand centre over his own crossbar as the best defence in the division continued to creak.

Reds boss Klopp opted to make two changes following last weekend’s last-gasp win over Tottenham, dropping midfielders James Milner and Henderson to the bench and bringing in summer signings Fabinho and Keita.

The German’s alterations were vindicated nine minutes before the break, albeit in controversial fashion.

After Salah escaped a flag having appeared to be marginally offside in the build up, the ball eventually broke for Trent Alexander-Arnold to deliver an inviting right-wing cross which Keita powerfully headed beyond the grasp of goalkeeper Gunn for his first Reds goal.

Guinea midfielder Keita, who was managed by Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl at former club RB Leipzig, was denied a penalty 13 minutes into the second period when he burst into the box and went down under a challenge from the sliding Maya Yoshida.

Liverpool dominated the second period but with time ticking away looked set to be held to a costly draw until Salah superbly intervened.

After a Southampton corner broke down, Henderson headed the ball into the path of the Egyptian and he proceeded to run around two thirds of the pitch before expertly curling home his 21st goal – and first since February 9 – from the edge of the box.

The vocal away following had barely finished celebrating that strike when Henderson ensured they will go into next week’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Porto full of confidence.

Van Dijk sprayed the ball to Roberto Firmino and his low centre was perfect for onrushing England midfielder Henderson to tap home.