Southampton 0-2 Liverpool: Four things we learnt

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Liverpool moved to within two points of the top four with a 2-0 victory against Southampton at St. Mary's on Sunday.

Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring for the Reds in just the third minute when his 25-yard effort left Saints goalkeeper Frazier Foster helpless. 

Both side's had penalty appeals in the first-period and Joe Allen was lucky not to have been penalised when he brought down Filip Djuricic just minutes after Liverpool had took the lead.

Southampton continued their surge for an equaliser, however, Raheem Sterling took advantage of Matt Targett's poor clearance to seal the three points for the travellers midway through the second-half.

In a game that was action packed from the off, there were several things learnt.

Champions League Is a Realistic Target

After Liverpool had taken just 14 points from their opening ten games, Kopites were worried how their season would turn out.

Prior to the New Year they had crashed out of the Champions League managing just five points and one win in Group B and looked nowhere near to match their second-placed effort in the Premier League last campaign.

Fast forward a few months and it is quite the opposite. Sunday's win made it four straight wins and just one loss in 17 games for Brendan Rodgers' side.

The Reds had lady luck on their side at the weekend - Manchester United lost, Tottenham Hotspur drew and of course, Southampton were on the end of a defeat - but it's about time some luck went them.

Now, Liverpool command sixth place and have the momentum and confidence in the last 12 games of the season. 

Two points is all that separates them and Manchester United in fourth-place with Southampton being sandwiched in between, a single point ahead and behind of both club's.

Based on the run of fixtures, you would have to say that the Merseyside outfit have the better of the fixtures. All three still have to travel to Stamford Bridge to face league-leaders Chelsea, but Southampton still have to travel to Manchester City and Everton.

The Red Devils may have beaten Liverpool 3-0 in 2014 but that was at Old Trafford and Louis van Gaal's side have lost four of the last six times at Anfield and the bitter rivals are set to clash in March in the return leg on the shores of the River Mersey.

If things work out in their favour, Liverpool could command fourth-place come 3.30pm on Sunday 22 March.

Lovren Still Not Up To Scratch

It was harsh that Rodgers threw Dejan Lovren into the deep end as the Croat made his first start in 2015 against his former club.

Lovren was in terrible form prior to the turn of the year and made six defensive errors on the back of his £20 million move from Southampton to Anfield and lost his place in the Liverpool line-up in November.

After making a handful of substitute appearances in recent weeks, in the absence of Mamadou Sakho, Rodgers finally made the move to recall Lovren into his side.

It was a mistake that the Northern Irishman probably regretted and could have cost his side the game.

From the first whistle, Saints fans were on Lovren's back whenever he was on the ball and the 25-year-old looked nervous and not up for the occasion. In the first-half, he gave the ball away needlessly throughout and completed just 17% of his passes in the first 20 minutes.

Lovren got so caught up within the moment that he completely forgot about Eljireo Elia in the first-half when a long ball was played and the Southampton man could have easily netted if it were not for Simon Mignolet being quick off his line.

Emre Can looked uncomfortable playing on the left-hand side as opposed to where Lovren was on the right and this too had a further negative effect on the team. So often, Liverpool rely on Can bringing the ball out from the right and using it with purpose. That task was then assigned to Lovren who just did not cut the mustard.

Markovic Should Not Have Started

It's not the first time that Lazar Markovic has been substituted at half-time. 

Against Crystal Palace, Mario Balotelli replaced him and the same happened at St. Mary's when Alberto Moreno replaced the Serbian at the break.

In a game that you knew Southampton were going to see plenty of the ball, it should have been Moreno from the start in the line-up. 

The Spaniard is much better defensively and the solidarity was highlighted in the second-period. 

Before half-time, Markovic struggled at left-wing back. Sure, he assisted Coutinho for his goal but he was nervy when defending and made several poor challenges.

Nathaniel Clyne has been one of the best right-back's in the league this season and plenty took advantage of the 20-year-old.

A wet day in the howling winds of the south coast is part of English football - if Markovic does not like that, he may be best to jump ship.

Europa League Will Have Effect

Thursday-Sunday games are something that every manager dreads to plan for. It's proven that they take their toll - just look at Spurs' and Everton's results prior to kick-off at St. Mary's.

Last Thursday's Europa League match against Besiktas was a gruelling encounter, one that left Liverpool working much harder than they wished for before a big game against Southampton.

The Reds got the win but if the result was the other way round there would not be a Kopite who had any problem with that scoreline. 

Rodgers' side lacked ideas at times going forward - Adam Lallana was off the boil and lacked ideas, Allen didn't contribute to anything except almost give a penalty away and Can put in a disappointing display.

During their brief stint in the Champions League prior to the New Year, Liverpool managed just three points from 18 in the Premier League after competing mid-week.

Rodges' men travel to Istanbul to face Besiktas in the last 32 of the Europa League on Thursday before making a quick turn-around to host title-holders Manchester City on Sunday - a game that kicks off as early as 12.00pm, giving them less than days to prepare for the game by the time they fly home from Turkey.

If Liverpool do get through on Thursday, there will still be another 15 sides competing for the B prize of European club football. There is not yet even a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel and considering league form and their fantastic position in the FA Cup, there may be a few Kopites who wouldn't mind crashing out of the Europa League.

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