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Transfer Rater: Isco to United, Bailey to Liverpool

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 By David Usher

Salah-Firmino duo dazzles in Van Dijk's winning Southampton return

Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino tormented Southampton as Liverpool dispatched the Saints and moved to within two points of second-placed Man United.
Jurgen Klopp hails the prolific partnership between Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino, highlighting their 'outstanding' attitude after Liverpool's win at Southampton.
As Mo Salah continues to score for Liverpool, Alison Bender and Stewart Robson evaluate his big season and compare his post-Chelsea form to other players Jose Mourinho let go.

This was the kind of routine win that Liverpool rarely seem to be able to produce. Their front players produced wonderful goals and, for once, there were no dramas at the other end as Jurgen Klopp's side moved back into third and closed the gap on second-placed Manchester United to two points.

SouthamptonSouthampton
LiverpoolLiverpool
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Positives

The defence had one or two wobbles in the first half but the way Liverpool kept the home side at arm's length after the break was encouraging. Virgil Van Dijk was dominant but this was a solid outing from the whole team.

Negatives

It's nit-picking, but the margin of victory should have been greater. Liverpool were excellent defensively but failed to make the most of counter-attacking opportunities.

Manager rating out of 10

7 -- Klopp set his team up to play a certain style and he got the result, so job done. Liverpool are usually more on the front foot but the plan of allowing Southampton to come forward and then exploiting the space left behind worked well. Substitutions were made at the right time but, had a third goal arrived, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah might have been rested a little earlier.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Loris Karius, 7 -- Made a few good saves in the first half, with the pick coming when he was quick off his line to deny Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. One or two slightly unconvincing punches apart, this was another encouraging display as he looks to establish himself.

DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 7 -- Kept the talented Dusan Tadic in check throughout and produced some excellent early passes into space that lead to dangerous counter-attacks, particularly in the first half.

DF Joel Matip, 7 -- Played his part in a good defensive showing and contributed at the other end with a crisp pass into Salah in the build-up to the second goal.

DF Virgil Van Dijk, 8 -- Excellent. All eyes were on him as he returned to his former club but the defender took everything in stride and was a picture of composure. He organised and cajoled his teammates and was cool in possession.

Mohamed Salah scored a goal and had an assist in Virgil van Dijk's return to Southampton.

DF Andrew Robertson, 7 -- Another energetic outing. He had one or two difficult moments with crosses that dropped over his head and led to chances, but the second half was much more comfortable and he got forward to good effect.

MF Emre Can, 6 -- Not his best performance but steady enough, as he got a win as captain at the fourth time of asking. Caught in possession a couple of times, one of which led to a booking when he brought down Oriol Romeu. Needs to stop shooting from 25 yards with his weaker foot.

MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 7 -- Neat and tidy, defensively diligent and made some excellent runs ahead of his front men that, on another day, might have seen him get on the scoresheet.

MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 6 -- Started brightly, had a shot saved and played the pass that released Salah in the build-up to the opener. But Oxlade-Chamberlain faded as the game wore on and it was no surprise that he was the first player substituted, midway through the second half.

FW Mohamed Salah, 8 -- Registered a goal and an assist, even though he wasn't at his best. He missed a great chance to put the game to bed when he blazed over from 14 yards but, still, he is proving virtually unstoppable this season and is just one goal behind Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot.

FW Roberto Firmino, 8 -- Reached the 20-goal milestone for the season when he side-footed home Salah's pass after six minutes and returned the favour just before half-time with an extravagant back heel. Firmino was given a well-earned rest late on, perhaps with an eye on Wednesday's Champions League clash in Porto.

FW Sadio Mane, 6 -- Having had a "Fab Four" not so long ago, Liverpool now have a "Dynamic Duo," because Philippe Coutinho has left and Mane is badly out of form. He was slightly better in this game and showed signs that he might play his way out of his slump, but he's a long way from the form that made him the club's Player of the Year last season.

Substitutes:

MF James Milner, 7 -- Brought on to provide stability in midfield and he did just that. He tackled, made interceptions and passed the ball efficiently.

MF Adam Lallana, NR -- Lively in the brief time he was on, he kept the ball, showed good skill and lots of energy. He should have marked his cameo with a goal, though.

DF Dejan Lovren, NR -- On to help see out four minutes of stoppage time, he was spared a hostile reception from the home crowd as most of them had already gone home.

Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.

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