Joel Matip was the unlikely hero as Liverpool won 2-1 at Southampton to take the Premier League title race to the wire.
The Cameroon defender headed a second-half winner to clinch a comeback victory that means the Merseysiders move back to within a point of leaders Manchester City with just one game to go.
Jurgen Klopp made nine changes from the side that lifted the FA Cup at the expense of Chelsea at the weekend and they suffered an early blow when Nathan Redmond finished off a fine solo run with a curling shot into the corner on 13 minutes.
The visitors were without the likes of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane but they responded well and deservedly levelled on 27 minutes.
Takumi Minamino, who spent the second part of last season on-loan with the Saints, finished off an excellent move with a rasping near-post strike to snare his 10th goal of the campaign.
Liverpool continued to dominate but did not find the crucial breakthrough until the 67th minute when Matip looped a header into the net from a poorly-defended left-wing corner.
The Reds will now hope for a twist on the final day of the Premier League season when they host Wolves and City take on Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa at Etihad Stadium.
Southampton, who have lost eight of their last 11 league matches, remain in 15th spot and end their campaign at Leicester City.
The quadruple bid is STILL alive. At half time during West Ham’s 2-2 draw with Man City on Sunday, Liverpool fans were beginning to dream. Pep Guardiola’s side quelled that buzz slightly by recovering from the 2-0 deficit to remain in control of the title race. There was a similar moment for a short period during this contest, but in the end the gap at the top is just one point and rather fittingly this Liverpool side will take it to the final day.
Typically, there is a subplot attached to the storyline. Former Anfield great, Gerrard takes his Villa side to City knowing he can help his old team win a 20th top-flight crown. After that fateful slip in 2014, could he finally play a part in a Reds title triumph? It’s a big ask, but Liverpool have ensured they will have a chance if City do blink as they once again demonstrated the depth of this squad with a hard-fought success, despite the wholesale changes.
It’s statistically a sensational campaign for Liverpool, but now it comes down to two games and the two biggest pieces of silverware. Win one trophy and it’s one of the greatest ever seasons. Win both and it’s surely the best ever in English football history. Win none and it will feel like they didn’t quite achieve what they deserved.
There’s so much at stake and it’s so tantalisingly close for Klopp and co, so strap yourself in for the ride, there could be some finale in store.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Takumi Minamino (Liverpool). The Japanese forward played a vital role as top scorer in both domestic cup campaigns but didn’t feature in the finals. He has largely been a bit-part player for Liverpool this term but despite any frustration at missing out on Wembley glory, he stepped up to the plate here with a vibrant display that he capped with a crucial leveller. His attitude sums up the togetherness of the Liverpool squad and it’s evident why Klopp has such faith in his fringe players when it comes to crunch moments.
SOUTHAMPTON: McCarthy 7, Walker-Peters 7, Lyanco 7, Stephens 7, Ward-Prowse 6, Redmond 7, Broja 6, Salisu 6, Tella 6, Elyounoussi 6, Diallo 6. Subs: Romeu 6, Armstrong 6, Adams n/a.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson 7, Gomez 6, Tsimikas 8, Konate 7, Matip 8, Milner 8, Elliott 7, Jones 7, Minamino 8, Jota 7, Firmino 8. Subs: Henderson 7, Origi 6, Keita n/a.
11’ – SOUTHAMPTON CHANCE! The hosts spring forward down the right. Broja is one on one with Matip and charges into the box. He’s got the speed but the angle is tight and he can’t squeeze his low cross-shot beyond the advancing Alisson.
13’ – GOAL! – Southampton 1-0 Liverpool. Redmond escapes down the left. He cuts inside past two before flashing a deflected right-foot shot into the far corner of Alisson’s net. Klopp is furious on the touchline. He thought there was a foul in the build up.
27’ – GOAL! – Southampton 1-1 Liverpool. Minamino levels matters with a thumping strike that fizzes in at the near post after Jota had touched Gomez’s cross into his path.
49’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Tsimikas drives forward down the left and cuts a low ball into the box for Jota, who takes one touch before flashing a shot just wide of the far post.
67’ – GOAL! – Southampton 1-2 Liverpool. Matip flicks a looping header into the top corner after Elyounoussi had failed in his attempt to clear a left-wing corner.