A resolute performance from Brendan Rodgers’ men resulted in three points and a move up two places in the Premiership to occupy second behind leaders Chelsea.
Many LFC supporters, myself included felt this was going to be a stern test of Liverpool’s Premiership credentials at a ground which was beginning to become something of a hoodoo for the men from Anfield. The recent poor defensive performances, coupled with a decent Southampton side, the outlook was not great for Rodgers’ side, and I, for one, was prepared to settle for a point. Perhaps a sign of expectations resulting from recent seasons.
The first half began as expected. Southampton taking the game to Liverpool hoping to take advantage of potential defensive lapses. The Reds’ back line however had other ideas and it was clear Liverpool were looking to play a distinct counter attacking game. True to current form, it had to be said that the visitors were pretty shaky in the opening 45 minutes. I think it’s even fair to say they were lucky to go into the break one goal to the good, let off by the impressive Adam Lallana being denied an equaliser by the woodwork. All told, LFC rode their luck and Phillipe Coutinho particularly ineffectual on the day.
Liverpool looked more assured in the second period and it’s clear some words of confidence were given to them in the half-time team talk by Rodgers. It was also clear Coutinho was not having the best of games, however, and he was substituted on 57 minutes for Raheem Sterling who surprisingly was left on the bench in favor of Joe Allen. Within a minute of coming on, the teenager had put the visitors further ahead, latching on to a Suarez cross after he dispossessed the complacent Southampton defence to race clear. Suarez was celebrating his 100th game for the club and what a 100 games he’s had!
From this point on, Liverpool grew in confidence and, as clichéd as it may sound, should have had a couple more goals as Daniel Sturridge and Suarez both went close. Jordan Henderson also blazed over from close range. By now, the home side looked completely bereft of ideas and the visiting back line stood firm, held their nerve and avoided the individual errors that have blighted their performances this last few games.
Despite a few forward forrays from Southampton, Rodgers’ men were in complete control. At times it wasn’t pretty but effective. Is this the performance of champions. Will they be? It’s too soon to say but they’ve put themselves in the mix and only deserve credit. The final nail in the home side’s coffin came in the final minute of injury time as Suarez was brought down by a clumsy challenge from Jose Fonte as he stormed into the opponents’ penalty box. Captain Steven Gerrard stepped up coolly to dispatch the resulting penalty to the goalkeepers left and put the score line abreast of the teams performance.
Liverpool can now look forward to what will be a tasty visit to the fallen Champions Manchester United in a couple of weeks, comfortable in the knowledge that they have absolutely nothing to fear. It’s true the defence is still not good enough and does need strengthening but there is no doubt the team has made huge strides this season. With a few additions in the right areas, notably left back – not taking anything away from Glen Johnson who had a good game today – centre back and a holding midfielder. Perhaps a quality attacker, then there’s no reason why the Reds can’t mount a serious challenge next season. That’s assuming they don’t lift the trophy this time.
Midway through the second half, chants of “There’s only one Brendan Rodgers” echoed around the St. Mary’s stadium and this was a deserving touch for the man who has dragged the team from perennial pretenders, finishing in seventh place last season to genuine contenders this time. Do we dare to dream? Well, as someone once said “It’s a funny old game” so who knows.
A special shout goes out to the Under 18 team who done Newcastle United’s Under 18 side 4-1 at the Academy ground earlier in the day. Two goals from Harry Wilson and one apiece from Will Marsh and Daniel Trickett-Smith completed the scoring. Dan Cleary at centre back looks like a star of the future. Watch this space.
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