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‘It’s a surprise’: Klopp wowed by Liverpool’s hot start

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Mohamed Salah was on target in Liverpool’s win over Southampton © AFP / Paul ELLIS

LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, Sep 22 – Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool’s flying start has surprised him as they won their sixth successive Premier League game to return to the top of the table.

The comfortable 3-0 victory over Southampton at Anfield was wrapped up by half-time on Saturday courtesy of an own goal from Wesley Hoedt, Joel Matip’s header and Mohamed Salah’s simple finish.

The victory marked Liverpool’s best start to a season since they won eight league games in a row in 1990-91.

Klopp’s red-hot men have now won seven successive matches in all competitions this term.

Southampton manager Mark Hughes, now without a league win in 12 visits to Anfield with six different teams, admitted the second half was simply “damage limitation” for the Saints.

And Klopp was happy to welcome another unexpected milestone on his team’s journey.

“I lost seven games in a row once, that felt different! But then we won game number eight 5-0, very cool,” he said.

“It’s a surprise, but all the performances we showed so far were good enough to win the games.

“Different challenges, different styles of opponent, the boys were there, really in the situation and in the game.”

Klopp was also able to offer good news on the only possible downsides on the day for Liverpool, the half time removal of Xherdan Shaqiri and the second half substitution of Virgil van Dijk, who left the pitch clutching his ribs.

Klopp revealed Shaqiri’s early substitution in his first Liverpool start was purely tactical despite his involvement in the build up to the first goal – his shot hit Shane Long before going in off Hoedt – and his superb 25 yard free-kick against the bar which led to Salah’s tap-in for the third.

“I said to Shaq at half time that I’d never taken a player off at half time after such an influential half,” Klopp said.

“He was not injured, but I wanted to control the game, go back to our normal formation, and that helped us.”

The Swiss international understood the decision, according to his manager.

“He’s a fantastic boy so there was no problem. I explained it to him, usually I don’t explain substitutions but I thought today it made a bit of sense,” Klopp added.

“It’s just good to have him. You saw the free kick, it was outstanding. What a ball!”

– Cutting edge –

Van Dijk, said Klopp, aggravated bruised ribs which he carried into the PSG game in midweek.

“He had already before the PSG game kind of a bruised rib, which is very uncomfortable, and today he got another hit there,” he said.

“It’s not cool, but should not be too serious.

“He said he couldn’t shout any more, so that’s obviously 60 per cent less of his level!”

Klopp’s 600th competitive game as a manager saw Liverpool extend an impressive home league record, unbeaten now in 18 games and 17 months at Anfield.

No opposing player has even scored here in the league since February, with Liverpool scoring 23 in the same period.

While the Saints enjoyed some promising moments they could not find the cutting edge to worry their opponents.

The second half was rather a non-event with Salah’s disallowed finish after James Milner’s shot was cleared off the line the closest Liverpool came to adding gloss to the scoreline.

Hughes thought 3-0 was harsh on his side but added: “We faced a quality side today. We’re not the first and won’t be the last not to cope with their attacking threat.

“We didn’t really give ourselves a chance in the opening period, we were too easy to create chances against though we were unfortunate with the opening goal.”

The victory ended a positive week for Liverpool with a third win after a statement victory against top four rivals Spurs at Wembley last weekend and the breathless, late victory against Paris St Germain in the Champions League.

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