Liverpool Home Won 3 – 2
Obviously Ronnie had to restore Fonte to his starting line-up after suspension, but Saints were otherwise unchanged to face Liverpool. This rare selection stability might have produced early results when Long outpaced Lovren only to collapse under a challenge from behind when well-placed to either shoot or pass to an unmarked Pellè – a clear penalty in the view of all except referee East, it seemed. There is a school of thought that officials are more reluctant to penalise defenders when their only option would be a sending off as well, but Long hadn’t helped his cause by changing the direction of his run to invite the challenge, and by going down a bit too readily. It looked like being the turning point when Coutinho was left unchallenged to shoot from distance into the bottom corner, with many thinking that Forster could have done better. Liverpool then took full control of the game, with Saints’ midfield unable to stop swift and incisive breaks that often left Fonte and Van Dijk outnumbered. Sturridge doubled the lead from one such situation, and there could have been more, but for poor finishing and Forster’s outstretched leg denying Allen. The Welshman did get the ball in the net before the break, but a very late flag disallowed the goal for offside, apparently on appeal from Tadić, although there must have been more to it than that. Saints had to do something at the interval to stop the wave of breaks, and they had just the man for the situation in Wanyama, available after a lengthy ban. They also needed to claw their way back into the game, and Mané was there to aid that quest, apparently not having been sent off in the preceding game after all! Soon Saints were given the opportunity to open the contest up when Liverpool’s own sub, Skrtel, was penalised for a shirt tug on Pellè. Mané was the only Saint on the pitch to have scored from the spot for the club, so I wasn’t surprised when he stepped up; unfortunately he’s no Rickie Lambert, and a well struck shot was at the right height for Mignolet to make a flying save. That too looked like a turning point, but in fact the game had already swung with the half time changes: Wanyama was now in the way of every Liverpool attack while Mané was proving a constant threat. Mané‘s right foot had let us down from 12 yards, but his left duly bought the game to life on 65 minutes, and then Pellè equalised with a terrific effort just as time looked to be running out. Three minutes later Saints were in front, thanks again to Mané‘s left peg, with another shot across Mignolet finding an over-used Chapel end net. There was still a nasty period of normal and added time to endure, but Saints were in no mood to let this one go and a wonderful Sunday lunchtime was complete.
LSSC Man of the Match: Sadio Mané, for 45 minutes work and despite missing a penalty.
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