Liverpool taught Southampton a harsh lesson about the difference six weeks can make in the life of a soccer team on the rise.
Liverpool trounced Southampton 6-1 on Wednesday at St. Mary’s Stadium in their Capital One Cup (Football League Cup) quarterfinal. The emphatic and historic win extends Liverpool’s Cup campaign into 2016, and the semifinal draw against Stoke City gives the Reds a chance to reach the final of the competition for a record 12th time.
The Reds’ performance and the result stand in stark contrast to the 1-1 draw they played against Southampton on Oct. 25 at Anfield.
And it’s all thanks to the recent injections of ambition, belief and firepower Liverpool has received since Jurgen Klopp took charge as manager on Oct. 8.
Daniel Sturridge overturned the lead Sadio Mane gave Southampton early on with goals in the 25th and 29th minutes. Sturridge gave Liverpool the winning edge in his first start since Oct. 4. Liverpool is infinitely more dangerous when Sturridge is firing than when he’s missing in action, as he scores from situations and angles most other players can’t. Sturridge required just 60 minutes of work to show why Liverpool players, coaches and fans have lamented his absences over the last 18 months.
Then there’s Sturridge’s strike partner Divock Origi, who’s celebrating the first, second and third goals of his Liverpool career after going goal-less first 10 appearances. Origi, 20, looked lost and unsure of himself earlier this season. He hadn’t started a game since Oct. 22 and had played just four minutes of first-team soccer in November. But the Belgian striker returned from the wilderness and demonstrated his hunger for goals and the opportunity to score them.
Jordon Ibe also scored for Liverpool. Ibe’s second goal in six games showed he’s adding a new dimension to his defensive dilligence and ability to threaten with dribbles and crosses from the right wing.
Liverpool scored six road goals against a full-strength Premier League team (albeit a struggling one), and its leading striker, Christian Benteke, watched the entire game from the bench. Klopp probably would have put Benteke’s multi-dimensional talents to use if necessary, but Sturridge, Origi, and Ibe gave the towering Belgian a rest and a good show.
Klopp’s first orders of business were to solidify Liverpool’s defense and reduce the self-doubt that seemed to have taken hold of a number of players. Scoring goals and playing free-flowing soccer would have to wait … until now.
Six weeks ago, Liverpool let Southampton stay in the game and steal a Premier League point with a late goal. Liverpool on Wednesday trounced Southampton with eagle-eye finishing and a relentless approach to the game.
The instances of Klopp’s Reds performing to the level of their opponents are becoming fewer as time passes. This new Liverpool team is pursuing the standards it seems to set for itself each week, and those targets and expectations should begin to resemble the Reds’ achievements of yesteryear. Klopp’s Liverpool could be that good one day in the not-too-distant future.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@LFC