By Richard Martin
LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - Liverpool's South American strikers Darwin Nunez and Roberto Firmino propelled the team to a 3-1 home win over Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday in their final match before the season pauses for the World Cup.
The victory took Liverpool into sixth place in the league standings on 22 points after 14 matches although Brighton & Hove Albion can climb back above them when they play Aston Villa on Sunday. Southampton are 19th on 12 points after 15 games.
Firmino, who this week was left out of Brazil's squad for the World Cup, put Liverpool in front in the sixth minute by glancing an Andy Robertson free kick into the net.
Moments later Southampton replied with a similar effort, Che Adams rising to head in James Ward-Prowse's set-piece delivery and score the club's first goal under new manager Nathan Jones.
Uruguay international Nunez restored Liverpool's lead in the 21st minute by volleying home a cross from 19-year-old midfielder Harvey Elliot.
The striker, who cost Liverpool a total of 95 million euros ($98.34 million) when he signed from Benfica in June, grabbed his second goal three minutes before halftime, meeting another cross from Robertson from close range.
Nunez was a handful for Southampton all afternoon, causing chaos in the air every time Liverpool sent a ball into the box and linking up well with his team mates, conjuring up an outrageous backheel to play in Firmino although the Brazilian was thwarted by Southampton keeper Gavin Bazunu.
The second half lacked the frenetic nature of the first although Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker had to make two good saves to preserve his side's two-goal cushion while Mohamed Salah spurned a great chance when he robbed possession and raced free into the area only to miscontrol the ball.
Liverpool had been in inconsistent form heading into the match, losing to Leeds United and Nottingham Forest but beating Tottenham Hotspur in their last league outing before scraping past Derby County on penalties in the League Cup on Wednesday.
Southampton were playing their first match under Jones, whom the club poached from second-tier Luton Town after sacking Ralph Hasenhuttl following Sunday's 4-1 home loss to Newcastle United, their eighth league defeat of the season.
The visitors showed some fight in the second half but Jones will have plenty of work to do when the season resumes in late December if he is to steer the team away from the relegation zone.
Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp was serving a one-match touchline ban for getting sent off in the win over Manchester City last month but at full-time he came out on to the pitch to salute the home fans.
($1 = 0.9660 euros)
(Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Clare Fallon)