Liverpool had unsung £66.8m hero in Southampton win as Chelsea comeback commenced on two fronts
It was fairly smooth sailing for Liverpool on Saturday afternoon, with Southampton quickly succumbing to the pressure imposed on them by Jürgen Klopp’s men.
However, it might not have been as straightforward, had it not been for one man and one moment.
With the score-line at one-nil, a loose pass by Thiago Alcântara allowed James Ward-Prowse to march into Liverpool’s penalty area.
It seemed like a certain opportunity for a equaliser, but Alisson Becker was alert to the danger and he rushed out to claw the ball away from the Southampton midfielder, coming to Liverpool’s rescue in the nick of time.
Had he not made the intervention, a Southampton equaliser so close to Liverpool taking the lead could have had a fundamental impact on the outcome of the game. Instead, a comfortable win moved his side at least temporarily within a point of Chelsea.
That save was not the only crucial contribution Alisson made in the game. Despite the four-nil score line, the Liverpool goalkeeper had plenty to do.
A few sloppy moments at the back allowed Southampton numerous sniffs at goal, but Alisson made sure he secured his second clean sheet in a row in the Premier League — a much needed morale boost after conceding five goals in his previous two games.
In total, Alisson made eight saves against Southampton, with the visitors racking up an impressive 1.59 xG — only 1.01 less than Liverpool’s 2.60.
Alisson has fallen short of the high standards he has set himself at times this season. Per Wyscout, he ranks in just ninth place in the league for prevented goals per 90, averaging 0.047. That’s well below Edouard Mendy of Chelsea, who is in first place with an average of 0.661.
But this performance against Southampton was reminiscent of Alisson at his best and a testament to why the club decided to splurge the hefty £66.8m on his services back in the summer of 2018. With more of the same, he could yet reel in Mendy — and in turn play a key part in helping Liverpool topple Chelsea.
Last season had its highs and lows for Alisson. Without his dramatic header against West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool may not be playing Champions League football this season. That goal alone would be enough to justify the price tag in hindsight, considering the financial ramifications that may have resulted in Liverpool missing out on Europe’s elite competition.
His performances in goal have petered out since his spectacular first two seasons in between the sticks at Liverpool. But Liverpool’s performances have dipped across the board in that time.
Against Southampton, Alisson proved form is only temporary and class will always be permanent. Klopp will be hoping Alisson uses this performance as the foundations to get back to his early Liverpool form because if he’s at his best, Liverpool’s goal is impenetrable.