Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane superb as Southampton rally, beat Liverpool
Ronald Koeman was given the perfect early birthday present on Sunday after Southampton came from behind in spectacular style to beat Liverpool 3-2 and reignite their European dreams.
The Dutchman would have been fearing a re-enactment of Southampton's 6-1 Capital One Cup disaster against the Reds in December, a game in which Phillippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge gave the visitors a two-goal head start in a dreadful first half performance. But substitute Sadio Mane's double and Graziano Pelle's third goal in a week made sure Southampton grabbed the three points to take them back to seventh place in the Premier League table.
Koeman, who turned 53 on Monday, even did his best Jurgen Klopp impression by running down the touchline to celebrate with his players after Mane's late winner.
Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Fraser Forster, 6 -- Could not do anything about either goal, which were curled to perfection out of his reach by two of the best finishers in the league. Came out well to deny Joe Allen and to put off Christian Benteke.
DF Cuco Martina, 6 -- The right-back is a difficult player to read, always look on the edge of a huge mistake but never quite makes it. Both goals originated down his flank but he can't be blamed after being caught high up the pitch when teammates make errors.
DF Virgil van Dijk, 7 -- Dejan Lovren's replacement's replacement had another stormer at the back. Almost looks more of a leader than skipper Fonte at times. Koeman challenged him to get rid of the sloppiness recently; boy, has he done that.
DF Jose Fonte, 6 -- Back from his suspension and wobbled in the first half, often giving counter-attacking players the space to run at him, continually backing off. Much more solid in the second half.
DF Ryan Bertrand, 7 -- Left-back, centre-back, wing-back? Bertrand stars everywhere. Today he was back at his "normal" left-back and did everything you expect a good left-back to do. Defended well against tricky customer Adam Lallana and attacked with the gusto you expect from him, even when everything was going pear-shaped in the first half.
MF Steven Davis, 6 -- You could copy and paste the Northern Irishman's ratings every week, whatever position he is forced into. On the right of midfield, he did his job well without grabbing the headlines. The most steady-eddy player in the top flight.
MF Jordy Clasie, 4 -- Looked more like the Clasie of the first half of the season in that he seemed timid, unfit and slovenly. Might find it harder to return as a starter after the break with Romeu, Wanyama and Davis impressing in the second half.
MF Oriol Romeu, 7 -- Must have been panicking with Victor Wanyama available for selection again, but once more he proved his quality. Rarely makes game changing mistakes and his offensive play has improved. A rare spark in the first half.
MF Dusan Tadic, 4 -- Being a part of the comeback would have done him a world of good, as it stands he was hauled off at the interval. His confidence will take another hit after that. A non-entity during Liverpool's domination.
FW Graziano Pelle, 9 -- If a player typified Southampton on the day, it was Pelle. Lethargic and frustrated in the first half, he played a massive part in the turn around. Took his goal superbly. After two strikes last week, his season is really resurrecting.
FW Shane Long, 7 -- Will still be in disbelief as to why he was not awarded a penalty early on when former Saint Lovren shoved him in the box after he was clean through on goal. Got in behind the static Reds' back line more often than not, but he did fade once Mane came on.
MF Victor Wanyama, 8 -- Would have been angry to miss out on the starting XI after serving his five-match ban, but he used that anger to put the spine back in the team after his half time introduction. Will be key after the international break for the European ambitions.
FW Sadio Mane, 9 -- King of the turnaround, both personally and for his team. Mane had gone 19 Premier League games and must have thought it was about to become 20 when he saw his spot kick saved, but his double will boost his confidence. It really was a performance to behold but will be having nightmares about seeing his rabid boss rampaging towards him after wonderfully taking his second.
MF James Ward-Prowse, 6 -- Did not really do anything of note, but his introduction kick-started the comeback. Was an out in the last couple of minutes to make sure the ball stayed away from the Saints box.
Alex Crook is a national newspaper journalist, commentator and author. Follow him on Twitter @alex_crook