A nervy affair at Anfield saw Liverpool take all three points against Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side who showed there certainly is life after Mauricio Pochettino and the raft of departures that followed him since the end of last season. Daniel Sturridge’s winner showing there certainly is life after Luis Suarez.
Brendan Rodgers, as predicted by the LFC File yesterday, the boss kept faith with the back four that done so well against Borussia Dortmund last week. Javier Manquillo, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and Glen Johnson retaining the left back berth. in Midfield, Lucas Leiva was mysteriously preferred to Emre Can or Joe Allen to partner Jordan Henderson in Midfield. The front three consisting of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling supporting Daniel Sturridge. Koeman gave debuts to four of the Saints’ new signings with Fraser Forster between the sticks, Chelsea loanee Ryan Bertrand, Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle.
Liverpool had the most of the early exchanges although it was clear to see that Southampton had left the proverbial bus on the south coast and weren’t prepared to sit back. Theyoffered much in the way of organisation, good football and steel in midfield provided by Victor Wanyama. To be fair to the visitors however, buses aren’t really for them.
For the home side a good start to the season was vital and that looked on the cards as a breakthrough came on 23 minutes. The stats showed that 50% of the possession was in the midfield and Henderson recovered the ball for the Reds after a scrappy exchange on the half way line. His pin point through ball between the two centre backs of the high Saints back line was perfect for the boy wonder Sterling to latch onto before despatching a deft right-foot finish low down to squeeze inside Forster’s left post. 1-0 Liverpool.
The game swung away from the hosts until the half time whistle brought some relief to Rodgers’ charges. The visitors started the second half as they finished the first and on 56 minutes Southampton drew level. A tidy 1-2 between Nathaniel Clyne and newbie Tadic caught a nervous Liverpool defence off guard as the unlikely Clyne rifled a right-foot rocket past the helpless Simon Mignolet int the roof of the net. 1-1 Game on.
Rodgers withdrew the hapless Lucas on 63 minutes clearly not impressed by his zero tackles completed statistic to bring on Allen. His introduction bringing some much-needed urgency to Liverpool’s play. Liverpool continued to lack lustre and almost conceded a second when Shane Long, on as a 74th minute substitute for the impressive Tadic headed wide from point blank range whist under pressure from Johnson. Local lad Rickie Lambert was thrown into the fray after 74 minutes in place of Coutinho who was closely marshalled throughout the game to mute his ordinary influence. I fear he’ll have to get used to that this season so Lazar Markovic’s return from injury will make for a welcome alternative when that happens.
The home side continued to stumble forward and on 79 minutes, they finally made their breakthrough. Manquillo’s cross was headed clear only for the hosts’ smallest player Sterling to head the ball back toward Sturridge who had just managed to remain on-side in front of goal. His tap in was enough to send the home supporters into raptures. No less than Rodgers’ who’s celebration was more than a match for the crowd. His relief clearly evident. Open this man’s heart, you’ll see LFC inside!
The game drew to a close as Liverpool huffed and puffed across the line, not without having to defend stoutly against the spirited visitors who gave the anxious home side a reminder that should they go on to top the pile come May, they’re going to have to fight for it. And damned hard too.
Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling. Rating: 9/10
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