Liverpool beat Southampton to secure an 11th successive top-flight victory and equal their best-ever Premier League winning run – despite a late blunder by goalkeeper Adrian.
With the European champions leading 2-0, Liverpool’s number two keeper – starting in place of the injured Alisson – cleared the ball against the shin of substitute Danny Ings to gift the Saints striker a goal against his former club.
Sadio Mane had given Liverpool the lead at the end of the first-half with a delicious arrowed finish from the edge of the penalty area after Saints had gone close on three occasions.
Adrian, who was passed fit despite an ankle injury in a collision with a pitch invader following the Uefa Super Cup win over Chelsea, had kept out Maya Yoshida’s header while Che Adams spurned two chances to equalise.
Mane turned provider to set up Roberto Firmino to double Liverpool’s advantage with a clever finish and that proved to be crucial given Adrian’s mistake in the closing stages.
Adrian’s error could have been even more costly for the Reds because in a dramatic finale Ings wasted a great chance to equalise inside the six-yard area.
With Alisson ruled out “for the next few weeks” with a calf injury he picked up in the season-opening win against Norwich City, new signing Adrian has found himself immediately thrust into the first team.
On Wednesday, the Spaniard kept out Tammy Abraham’s penalty to secure victory over Chelsea in the Super Cup.
But against Southampton, his glaring error put the recent recruit into the spotlight for the wrong reasons – and it was not Adrian’s first mistake of the afternoon.
With the game goalless, his attempted clearance following Virgil van Dijk’s backpass struck James Ward-Prowse but fortunately spun out of play.
“Adrian had a swollen ankle and we played too many balls back to him in that period,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.
“The other players have to then feel more the responsibility for the build-up and cannot give all the balls back to him and hope the pain killers still help or whatever.
“I don’t think the goal was because of that, but a few other balls were. He is completely good with his feet.”
On the plus side, Adrian then reacted smartly to make one of the saves of the game as he kept out Yoshida’s close-range header.
Alisson’s presence – alongside that of Van Dijk – brought a calmness to the Liverpool defence last season and since the Brazil keeper’s injury, Klopp’s side have looked vulnerable at the back.
Norwich scored at Anfield, Chelsea got two in the Super Cup – and could have had more – while on numerous occasions there was alarm in the Reds’ defence against Southampton, who were wasteful in punishing the visitors.
Positives for Saints in defeat
Having suffered a 3-0 defeat at Burnley on the opening weekend of the season, Southampton needed to respond in front of their own fans.
Although his team remain without a point, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side gave the European champions a stern test that bodes well for next week’s trip to Brighton.
Adams caused problems with his pace while Ward-Prowse worked tirelessly in midfield.
Southampton have not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League for nine games and that search for an impregnable defence continued against Liverpool – but it required a strike of the highest quality by Mane to break the deadlock.
Firmino’s goal, in contrast, was a disaster as far as Saints were concerned after they conceded possession at a throw-in and were punished by the Brazil striker.
Adrian’s error gave Southampton hope of salvaging something from a game in which they more than matched last season’s Premier League runners-up for large parts.
So while Saints have not won a Premier League match since 13 April, they will be confident they can end that run sooner rather than later after this spirited performance.
Will Oxlade-Chamberlain shine this season?
It was far from a vintage performance by Liverpool, but that was perhaps understandable considering they only arrived back in England on Thursday after facing Chelsea in Turkey.
It was not surprising, therefore, that Klopp rotated his team to face Saints – especially in midfield, where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was given a first Premier League start since April 2018.
He started the Super Cup game in a more advanced wide role and lasted just 45 minutes, but in his favoured midfield position the England player was particularly lively in the first half.
Having recovered from a serious knee injury, if Oxlade-Chamberlain can return to the form he showed at the end of his first season with the club, it will be a huge boost for Klopp, who did not make a major signing in the summer.
He got another 89 minutes under his belt against Southampton – including creating a good chance for Salah – and will hope to face another of his former clubs, Arsenal, next week at Anfield.
Liverpool will play another club with six points in that match and while they are yet to hit top form this season, they will approach the game with confidence having not dropped a point since the goalless draw at Everton on 3 March.