Southampton 1-6 Liverpool
Liverpool hit Southampton for six and are now just two games away from their first piece of silverware in the Jurgen Klopp era, if they can overcome Stoke in the semi-final and Everton or Manchester City in the final.
Whatever question marks Klopp may have had with Daniel Sturridge’s pain threshold, they were quickly dispelled with a clinical double from the England International in an amazing five minute spell for Liverpool, that turned this Capital One cup tie on its head.
The Liverpool boss made six changes to the side that edged out Swansea by a solitary goal on Sunday.
He must have been wondering if it was the right decision after only forty-one seconds, as Southampton took the lead with their first attack.
Ryan Bertrand easily side-stepped Emre Can and his curling cross was met beautifully by the head of Mané to give the home side the lead inside the first minute of the game.
Liverpool looked unsteady and unsure in the early stages of the game, no doubt rocked by the goal but, slowly and surely their new-found belief under Klopp returned, helped in no small measure by their returning striker.
Sturridge latched on to a sublime pass from Joe Allen, and despite a poor first touch, Southampton’s Steven Caulker allowed Liverpool’s number 15 time to set up a left foot shot low past Stekelenburg to make it 1-1 after 25 minutes.
Four minutes later, Sturridge had turned the game on its head with his and Liverpool’s second. Once again a superb pass, this time with the outside of Emre Can’s right boot allowed Sturridge to ghost in at the back of a static Saints defence to side-foot goal number two for the visitors.
The Liverpool hit man has been sidelined for two months with knee and foot injuries, and despite making an appearance for 25 minutes against Swansea on Sunday, he was still expected to start on the bench.
Liverpool’s third came right on the stroke of half-time from a floated corner, which eventually dropped at the edge of the box for Alberto Moreno.
The Spaniard hit a low thunderous shot that took a slight deflection off teammate Origi to deceive the Saints goalie enough to give Liverpool a 3-1 lead at the break.
Jurgen Klopp, speaking after the game, was well impressed with Sturridge’s contribution and decided to protect the striker by replacing him just before the hour to make sure he’s ready for bigger battles ahead in the league.
If Divok Origi struggles to claim the third goal off Moreno, there is no doubt about Liverpool’s fourth. The Belgian’s movement was brilliantly picked out by Jordan Ibe, and from there, Origi hit a rasping shot high into the roof of the net leaving Stekelenburg helpless and Southampton out of the cup.
Liverpool made it 5-1 four minutes later, Moreno’s pass picked out Jordan Ibe on the edge of the 18 yard box and his chest control was followed by a thumping right foot shot into the back of the net, to send the away support dreaming of a genuine chance of silverware in the early months of their new manager’s reign.
Origi’s hat-trick made it 6-1, four minutes from time, when he latched onto a wonderful cross from Brad Smith to head home.
The biggest problem for Liverpool and Klopp now, is to try and keep a lid on the excitement he is creating at Anfield, with the players he inherited from the impotent Brendan Rogers.
There’s already murmurings of a challenge for the title this season from fanatical kopites, but overcoming Stoke City in the semi-final will be the Liverpool manager’s priority.
Klopp told Sky Sports ‘If you have six goals, you have to talk about the goalscorer.
Now I know what everyone is talking about with Daniel Sturridge. We have to work with Daniel to try and keep him fit. If we can decide when it is the right moment for him to play, everything should be okay.’
‘I have no time to reflect on my previous two months, in three days we play against Newcastle. We have to play football and we have to work hard. We need a little bit of luck in football.’
Ronald Koeman told Sky Sports ’That’s not the result that we expect. I think it was a great start in the game but, if you make the first half mistakes we made defensively and the top quality of Liverpool offensively, then you can lose.’
‘The second half is my responsibility. I changed the system, I took the risk and we played three at the back and that is my responsibility.’
The draw for the semi-finals paired Liverpool with Stoke, Everton will have to overcome Manchester City to set up a possible all Merseyside final.