Liverpool take title race to final day after Joël Matip header sees off Southampton


Liverpool are going the distance. And so is their pursuit of the Premier League title. It is a remarkable detail of their season that they will play in every game of the four main competitions, with the Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday week set to be the last one. Before that – and with the domestic cups already secure – they will attempt to complete the third leg of an unprecedented quadruple.

They will still need the league leaders, Manchester City, to slip up at home against Aston Villa on the final day on Sunday and what a storyline that could be. City have injury problems in defence and one particular Liverpudlian will be keen to capitalise – the Villa manager, Steven Gerrard.

Liverpool will have to beat Wolves at home and hope that City draw or lose but it will go to the wire after Jürgen Klopp’s team proved too strong for Southampton. Klopp rotated heavily, retaining only Alisson and Ibrahima Konaté from the lineup that had started the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday and, for the opening 20 minutes, they struggled. Southampton were bright and they led through Nathan Redmond.

But thereafter, it was an exercise in Liverpool reeling them in. Takumi Minamino, who was on loan at Southampton last season, got the equaliser and, although Joël Matip’s winner was undercut by an element of fortune, it had been coming. Liverpool came to dominate the ball and there was only one team asking the questions in the final third.

Matip’s header was galling for Southampton, who had been resilient but could not avoid an eighth defeat in 11 league matches. Their season has fizzled out but, as Ralph Hasenhüttl noted with a little edge before kick-off, they have never been close to the relegation battle and a handful of clubs would gladly trade places with them.

Matip had his feet planted as a corner from Kostas Tsimikas flicked off Mohamed Elyounoussi and came towards him and the Southampton full-back, Kyle Walker-Peters. It was difficult to tell which player got his head to the ball first but then there it was, looping up and into the far, top corner.