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Liverpool moved second in the Barclays Premier League thanks to a hard-fought 3-0 win over Southampton at St Mary's Stadium.
After Arsenal slipped up at Stoke City earlier in the day, pressure was on Liverpool as they sought to arrest a run of three straight away defeats to Southampton and avenge their home reverse to the South Coast club from earlier in the season. A goal in each half from Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling plus a stoppage-time penalty from Steven Gerrard ended their poor run of form against the hosts and kept them within four points of leaders Chelsea, having played two matches more than fourth-placed Manchester City.
Making his 100th Barclays Premier League appearance, Suarez opened the scoring early on, calmly slotting home from inside the penalty area after an attempted clearance ricocheted into his path off Jose Fonte. His 62nd goal in the top flight ended a run of nearly seven hours without finding the net and he turned provider for Liverpool's second shortly before the hour. The striker's pull-back from the right was met by substitute Sterling, before Gerrard stroked home the penalty to add an emphatic touch to the scoreline and ensure Liverpool of a first win at Southampton since 2003.
Southampton's England quartet of Luke Shaw, Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana all started the game, with national manager Roy Hodgson watching on. However Uruguay forward Suarez, who will face England in Brazil, almost gave the visitors the lead after just six minutes, but he was unable to apply a finishing touch to Daniel Sturridge's cross due to Fonte's well-timed intervention.
Suarez was on hand to take advantage of slack Southampton defending 10 minutes later however, sliding home a loose ball from inside the area after the hosts' backline failed to clear. Despite falling behind, Southampton continued to keep possession and Lambert could have threatened Simon Mignolet's goal after 25 minutes but he could only angle his snap shot over the crossbar.
Rodriguez's knockdown found Lallana inside the area but the midfielder rolled his effort on to Mignolet's right post shortly after the half-hour before failing to direct Shaw's cutback on target.
Mignolet produced an impressive stop two minutes before the break, clawing away Rodriguez's sidefooted effort as the hosts were frustrated in their attempts to level.
Southampton continued their momentum into the second half but were unable to breach the visitors' defence while Brendan Rodgers opted to introduce Sterling in an attempt to offer more of a forward threat. It proved an astute decision as the winger slid home Suarez's cross to double Liverpool's advantage two minutes before the hour on his 50th Barclays Premier League appearance.
Gerrard capped off an important outing for his side with a late penalty, won by Suarez, as Liverpool racked up a fourth straight win in the top flight to reinforce their credentials as title hopefuls.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: "We created a lot of chances in the first half and we deserved a lot more from the half. It should have been a different result but we just have to be a lot more clinical in the first half to get a different result.
"We were unlucky not to score in the first half and then Sterling came on, [scores with] his first touch and it's 2-0.
"I thought overall with the team's performance it was an unfair result but Liverpool were a lot more clinical than we were. When you're not clinical against teams like Liverpool, it's always going to be difficult to get something positive out of the game."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "Everyone speaks about Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City and rightly so. For us, we're just concentrating on ourselves."
"We just want to keep improving; mentally we're getting stronger all the time. With 10 games to go, we'll just see where it takes us.
"I just want to enjoy watching the team. We only want to win the next game, there's no point getting ahead of ourselves."
"This is a difficult place to come, it was an all-round outstanding team performance with and without the ball.
"Raheem is a young player, he's been brilliant. I just thought as the game went on he was someone we could bring on with his pace and trickery.
"People see him as a wide player, but we don't want to pigeonhole him. His touch is good, he can connect the game well and (he produced) a good finish."
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