Xherdan Shaqiri impresses as Liverpool receive grade B in comfortable Southampton win

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Xherdan Shaqiri

Xherdan Shaqiri produced a glowing performance in Liverpool’s comfortable 3-0 win over Southampton to further justify his £12million transfer from Stoke City in the summer.

There were some critics doubtful of his potential to make an impact with the Reds after a Stoke career marked by inconsistency.

However, the Swiss forward showed just what he has to offer Jurgen Klopp on his first start for the club with a hand in two first-half goals.

His deflected cross was turned in by Wesley Hoedt for the opener and a brilliant curling free-kick against the crossbar presented Mohamed Salah with a simple close-range effort for the third.

Either side of those, Joel Matip notched his first at Anfield as the Reds cruised to a sixth successive league victory – seventh in all competitions – to maintain their 100 per cent record.

THE GOOD

Liverpool’s strength in reserve

Joel Matip and Xherdan Shaqiri were brought into the side for their first starts of the season and both made big impacts. Shaqiri, deployed at the tip of midfield in a 4-2-3-1, was influential for the first and third goals with Matip scoring the second. The Swiss wrecking ball was a bundle of energy, popping up in between the lines and linking well with Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah. Matip was the pick of Liverpool’s defenders, on both sides of the ball, through his excellent play into the midfield and solidity at the back.

Salah on the scoresheet

Shaqiri’s inclusion saw Salah moved up to spearhead the attack and the switch paid dividends with the Egyptian scoring his third league of the season. Farcical talk of a ‘drought’ were laid to waste as he rattled home from Shaqiri’s thunderous free-kick. Granted, he could have scored more, but for those who have actually watched Salah this season, as opposed to analysing his performances through statistics alone, they’ll recognise he’s actually started the campaign in good form.

THE BAD

Southampton fail to do the basics

Away from home against a title challenger, the last thing Southampton needed was to concede two goals inside 20 minutes from set-pieces. The Reds have largely walked through their first six Premier League opponents and haven’t really been required to accelerate. Saints likewise were beaten early and after Salah scored on the edge of half-time, their ambition stretched no further than seeing the game out with no more goals against them.

Front line disconnect

Liverpool appear to be beating sides before they even kick a ball, but the fear of their forward line doesn’t match the reality at the moment. Salah missed opportunities, Mane is overplaying and the only player really shining is Firmino with the intelligent Brazilian steps ahead of the opposition. Still, as a trio, they look well away from the blistering form of last season and with trickier tests to come, Klopp will hope they’re ready to lock and load.

KEY MOMENTS

10th min GOAL Liverpool 1-0: Element of fortune and skill in this goal. A corner ricochets to Mane out on the left, the Senegal forward then slides a delightful ball inside the full-back for Shaqiri and his fizzing cross takes two deflections, the second off Hoedt squeezing the ball home.

20th min: CHANCE: So close to a second. Robertson advances into midfield and fires the ball into Salah with his back to goal. The Egyptian twists, plays a quick one-two on the edge of the box with Firmino and just before pulling the trigger, Cedric comes across superbly to knock the ball out for a corner.

21st min GOAL Liverpool 2-0: Simple and effective. From the resulting set-piece, Trent Alexander-Arnold swings a fine corner from the right, finds a leaping Matip who rises well to plant his header home for Liverpool’s second.

42nd min CHANCE: So close for Salah. Southampton cut Liverpool open through the middle, a low cross should be finished Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg but he can’t find his footing and the hosts can break. Firmino drives forward from his own half, pings a delightful diagonal ball for the advancing Salah on the left and the forward bearing down on goal ends up with his back to goal and a cheeky quick-witted backheeled attempt just slides wide.

45th+3 min GOAL Liverpool 3-0: Game over. Shaqiri is desperately unlucky not to score, yet Salah prospers from his misfortune. The Swiss smashes a brilliant free-kick against the underside of the bar and Salah scampers to finish on the follow up.

89th min GOAL DISALLOWED: It looked like Salah had netted his 50th goal in English football but the linesman correctly rules him offside. Substitute James Milner twice nearly scores from pin-ball action in the box and the ball squirms to Salah, he swivels and shoots on the turn but was offside before Milner hit his second attempt.

TACTICAL TURNING POINT

Shaqiri brought off at half-time

Not really a turning point as such but an interesting footnote in this game regardless. Liverpool started the game in a 4-2-3-1, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson sat in front of the back four, Shaqiri in the free role with Firmino and Mane either side and Salah through the middle. Having the extra man in attack certainly helps against sides who sit deep, yet Klopp clearly wanted to exert more midfield dominance after the break with Southampton getting some joy through the middle. Despite his deeply positive display, Shaqiri was brought off for Milner and the Reds switched back to their usual 4-3-3 shape to see the game out.

 Xherdan Shaqiri

Xherdan Shaqiri

VERDICT

Liverpool: B

Been said many times of Liverpool this season, but they got the result they wanted without having to produce a performance anywhere near close to their best. Eight league games without conceding will certainly please Klopp, though.

Southampton: D

Concede from set-pieces then offer absolutely nothing in the way of attacking endeavour. Southampton were well beaten before the first whistle but to drop goals in the manner they did was very disappointing.

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