If anyone ever asks you in the future to describe Liverpool’s 22/23 season just show them the final game against Southampton. In a game that mattered little to either side, and in particular the defence, the Reds and Saints shared the spoils in what can only be called calamitous and chaotic but bloody entertaining.
Jurgen Klopp rang the changes for Southampton’s final Premier League match for the foreseeable future for The Championship can be an unforgiving place, and has often been described as the toughest league to get out of. This was also the final games of James Milner and Roberto Firmino in a shirt with a liverbird on the chest as well as for James Ward-Prowse who will most definitely be moving on to greener pastures than England’s second league.
It was in the 10th minute of the game, as the hosts tried to play out from the back that the young Belgian midfielder, Lavia, gifted Jota with Liverpool’s opener. Like a learner driving not checking their mirrors, the Saints midfielder blindly played a square ball that landed straight into the Portuguese man’s feet and all that was left to do was guide the ball into an open net, which he did. Four short minutes later it was two-nil as Trent Alexander-Arnold played an excellent ball into Fabinho on the edge of the box. He controlled, swivelled and played a diagonal pass into the run of Liverpool’s number 9 (at least for one last game) who sat one defender on his backside and took another to his knee before cooly slotting the ball between the keeper’s legs. Liverpool were cruising, but not for long.
In the 19th minute, Ward-Prowse side-footed passed a helpless Kelleher after a neat one-two on the edge of the box between Alcaraz and Sulemana, before Alcaraz played the ball to an open Saints skipper. Then in the 28th minute the game was all square again, after Firmino took a heavy touch near the halfway line and the resulting tackle caused the ball to fall to Walcott who brilliantly slid it through to Sulemana. He slipped the ball under Kelleher and the home team had found themselves a well-deserved equaliser. The game stayed that way until half time.
The hosts came out of the blocks better and in the 48th minute Sulemana went on a mazey solo run from inside his own half as he drifted passed Liverpool players like they were statues before launching a fantastic finessed effort into the bottom corner and remarkably the home side were ahead after trailing 2-0.
It was around the 60 minute mark that substitutions began being made and in the 63rd two of them combined for Southampton’s fourth. The problem here was these substitutes were not on the same team. Jordan Henderson somehow managed to pass the ball directly to the feet of Southampton’s Adam Armstrong, who ran through and with all the composure of a Shaolin monk, placed the ball across the Liverpool keeper and into the back of the net. The Reds has now conceded four unanswered goals since taking a 2-0 lead early in the match, but the madness wasn’t over yet.
In the 72nd minute, Cody Gakpo finished off a delightful Liverpool move in which they strung several sensational passes together before Trent rolled the ball across to the back post where the unmarked Dutchman tap into an empty net. 4-3. Surely that was it.
One short minute later, Salah sent Jota through to strike ball passed the hapless McCarthy and the game was 4-4. This game had a kind of end of season training scrimmage feel to it and defence was definitely not a priority for either team.
That’s how the match ended and although neither team’s outcomes were affected by this result it did epitomise their seasons.
So Liverpool finish fifth and the Europa League beckons but it will need to be a summer of reinforcing and rebuilding to make the inconsistencies of this year less consistent next year. For Southampton the Championship it is and I honestly wish them well and a speedy return to England’s top flight, for we need a presence from the south coast. Farewell to Bobby, James and the others who are moving on. No matter where you go, you’ll forever be a Red and you’ll never walk alone. Ta-ra.