Jurgen Klopp says Mohamed Salah‘s quality was “never in doubt” after the Egyptian ended his goal drought in style to help fire Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League.
Salah ran from inside his own half before bending home his 50th top-flight strike for the Reds as they came from behind to beat lowly Southampton 3-1.
Jordan Henderson’s late third sealed a comeback success which moves the Merseyside club two points clear of title rivals Manchester City after Naby Keita cancelled out an early opener from Saints forward Shane Long.
Salah’s superb solo effort came with 10 minutes remaining at St Mary’s and ended a run of eight games without finding the net.
Manager Klopp agreed goals of that quality in high-pressure moments define the game’s great players.
“Oh yes. But it was never in doubt that he was a great player in my side”, said Klopp.
“Super goal from Mo, super run. Fantastic finish. It was goal number 50 for Liverpool, an incredible number.
“He’s pretty consistent, very consistent. Physical things are always there, but how he stays always calm… it’s a nice moment. A first goal after a while.”
With Pep Guardiola’s City in FA Cup semi-final action this weekend, Liverpool will remain at the summit until at least April 14, albeit having played a game more.
Until the late interventions of Salah and impressive substitute Henderson they looked set to stay in second spot on goal difference.
Klopp admitted it was a significant victory for his team and believes Southampton, who remain five points above the drop zone, are a far tougher proposition since the appointment of Ralph Hasenhuttl.
“In the end it’s brilliant. We come here and we know Southampton are a really different side since Ralph came in,” continued the German.
“Everyone was expecting three points, but we knew how difficult it would be.
“Everyone will come here in the future and feel how difficult it is, so that makes it even more satisfying and brilliant that we could win.
“It was really big for us.”
Reds captain Henderson and fellow midfielder James Milner had been dropped to the bench following last weekend’s last-gasp victory over Tottenham.
They were introduced as part of a double substitution with 31 minutes to play and played a crucial role in driving their team on to three points.
“Second half they (Southampton) started lively, but we could bring two very motivated boys on,” said Klopp.
“They helped a lot, pushed the whole team, do it in the dressing-room and on the pitch.
“Then we scored these two world-class goals, winning the balls back and counter-attacking.”
Saints boss Hasenhuttl was proud of his players’ efforts but felt they needed a “near perfect game” to pull off a shock success.
The Austrian also thought Long’s ninth-minute opener possibly came too soon in the match.
“If you score that early, you know there’s a long way to go against such a team,” he said.
“Maybe it was a little bit too early.
“We showed once again that we are fighting for everything and, for 80 minutes, we made a very good game against a very good team.
“We knew we needed a near perfect game against such a team. We had a very good game, but that wasn’t enough. But I’m still very proud.”