GOALS from Sadio Mane and Thiago ensured Liverpool sealed a 2-0 victory over Saints at Anfield.

Former Saints forward Mane headed home a cross from Mo Salah after 31 minutes on Merseyside before Spanish midfielder Thiago slotted in his first goal for the hosts late on.

Defeat extended Saints’ miserable form since the turn of the year and left them 16th in the Premier League table with four games of their season remaining.

Boss Ralph Hasenhuttl made two changes from the Saints side who battled to a 1-1 draw with Leicester City last time out.

The ineligible Takumi Minamino, on loan from Liverpool, was unable to feature, meaning Theo Walcott came back into the line-up.

There was also a switch in goal for the visitors as Fraser Forster, who kept a clean sheet when Saints beat Liverpool 1-0 back in January, replaced Alex McCarthy.

There was place on the bench for Michael Obafemi for the visitors – the first time he had appeared in a first-team match squad since December. The game was Stuart Armstrong’s 100th in Saints colours.

But it was a former Saint in Mane who had the first chance of the contest after 10 minutes.

After brilliantly bringing down Salah’s lofted pass, the Senegalese forward jinked away from Jannik Vestergaard but blazed over the bar.

Despite Saints forcing a couple of corners, the next chance then came the way of Salah. The Egyptian forced keeper Forster to save with his leg at the near post from an acute angle.

Diogo Jota stung the palms of Forster before the Reds came within inches of breaking the deadlock on 26 minutes.

Midfielder Gini Wijnaldum leapt above Jan Bednarek and saw his header clip the top of the crossbar.

Saints then spurned a huge opportunity to break the deadlock just before the half-hour mark.

Walcott spotted the run of Nathan Tella, who in turn played a perfect square ball for Che Adams.

The Scotland international attempted to lift the ball over home keeper Alisson, who raced out to smother the effort.

And just a minute later, Liverpool were in front. Salah spotted the run of Mane, who ghosted to the back post to head home from close range.

Saints then looked to respond and squandered a big opportunity to get back on level terms.

Redmond found space to cross for former Arsenal youngster Tella, who headed into the clutches of Alisson unchallenged.

Liverpool came out with intent after the break. Jota and Mane combined inside the box before the former was denied by the outstretched glove of Forster.

Hasenhuttl then looked to change things from the bench with 24 minutes remaining. Obafemi was introduced along with Ibrahima Diallo. Tella and Walcott were the pair to make way.

And Republic of Ireland striker Obafemi almost netted with his first moment of action.

He was played in by Adams inside the box, only to be denied by the onrushing Alisson.

Obafemi’s cushioned header then allowed Diallo to rifle at goal – his effort tipped over the bar.

Saints almost had their equaliser through an unforced Liverpool error. Alisson gifted possession to Adams, who failed to beat the Brazilian when looking to find the bottom corner of the net.

But midfielder Thiago rubbed salt in Saints’ wounds late on, firing into the corner from 25 yards out.

Saints: Forster, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Stephens, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong, Redmond, Tella (Obafemi, 66), Walcott (Diallo, 66), Adams (Djenepo, 79).

Unused subs: Ramsay, Salisu, Jankewitz, Ferry, NLundulu, McCarthy (g/k).

Booked: Redmond.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, R Williams, Robertson, Thiago, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 87), Jota (Firmino, 79), Mané (Jones, 90+3).

Unused subs: Tsimikas, Shaqiri, Woodburn, N Williams, Koumetio, Adrián (g/k).

Booked: None.

Referee: Kevin Friend.

VAR: Andre Marriner.