Saints stun Liverpool at Anfield
Liverpool's unbeaten run comes to abrupt end
Liverpool's six-month unbeaten run came to a sudden end at Anfield, as they came up short against a spirited and organised Southampton side.
The Reds went into the fixture off the back of three wins and a two-all draw against Swansea on Monday saw them begin the day in pole position in the Premier League table.
The fixture was the last in the series of games missed by Uruguayan star Luis Suarez, who had been serving a 10-match ban for a biting incident on Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic last term.
Southampton meanwhile, had endured a dull goalless draw last Sunday with West Ham, sending them into the Anfield clash in 11th place with five points from their opening four fixtures. Mauricio Pochettino was able to call upon any of his full quota of first team options ahead of the trip to Anfield.
Liverpool started with four central defenders, as Kolo Toure started at right-back whilst Daniel Agger returned to the side, albeit in the left-back position. Iago Aspas replaced the injured Philippe Coutinho.
Southampton manager Pochettino opted to remain faithful to the side that started against West Ham. In fact, there was just one change from the Argentine, who introduced Jack Cork to the bench in the place of Guly Do Prado.
Liverpool were to kick-start an end-to-end fixture, with Jordan Henderson's attempt from the edge of area finding its way in to the arms of Artur Boruc in the Southampton goal.
Southampton initially struggled to get a foothold in the fixture, as Liverpool asserted their home dominance. The visitors' first real threat came in the form of a 30-yard Rickie Lambert piledriver, but the Liverpudlian's attempt came to nothing.
Liverpool continued to demonstrate their early superiority in the opening twenty minutes at Anfield, before Jose Fonte gave away a cheap free-kick on the edge of the box. Steven Gerrard's attempt was well-hit, lifted, powerful and swirling, but the wrists of Boruc proved too strong for the Liverpool skipper's attempt.
From the resultant corner, the Reds went close once again, this time it was Kolo Toure, who could only head his attempt wide of goal.
Some neat trickery from Southampton captain Adam Lallana and a lifted cross ensured that confusion ensued, as Gerrard and Toure got in each other's way, but Rickie Lambert's attempt was miscued and comfortable for Simon Mignolet.
Dani Osvaldo continued his search for a first goal in Southampton colours, but the Italian forward could only find the side netting with his ambitious near post drive.
Controversy swept Anfield when, after thirty minutes, Daniel Sturridge appeared to have been felled in the penalty area by Dejan Lovren. The penalty shouts from the Kop proved fruitless, with referee Neil Swarbrick waving away the appeals.
Victor Moses was next to attempt to break the deadlock. Despite leaving fellow former Palace star Jose Fonte lying in his wake, he was denied by the imperious Boruc.
Dejan Lovren continued to have a central role, this time denying Kolo Toure with a late challenge to send the ball behind, after the defender combined well with Sturridge in the penalty area.
Sturridge's movement continued to cause problems, but his low cross was safely turned away for a corner by Nathaniel Clyne.
The sides went in level at half-time, despite Liverpool edging the fixture for chance creation. Southampton had defended resolutely and had succeeded in frustrating their in-form opposition.
After the interval, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers opted to withdraw Iago Aspas in favour of Raheem Sterling. Saints supremo Pochettino opted to once again make no changes.
The Saints started the second half strongly. First a Lambert knock-down was squandered by Jay Rodriguez, who could only fire straight at Mignolet. Just a minute late, it was Adam Lallana's turn. Nathaniel Clyne picked up on a piece of sloppy Liverpool play before slipping in Lallana, who failed to convert the opportunity.
Southampton's early deluge continued, and after fifty-three minutes their efforts were rewarded. A quick throw-in from the talismanic Rickie Lambert earned the visitors a corner.
The resultant corner yielded the only goal of the game, as Croatian defender Dejan Lovren once again played his part in a focal point in the fixture. Lovren, moving away from goal, managed to stoop to head across goal, finding the back of the net courtesy of a misjudged Steven Gerrard clearance.
The goal was Lovren's first for the club and came in just his fifth start since joining the south coast side. Lovren has proved to be an ever-present, already beginning to repay the faith shown in him by boss Pochettino, who brought the defender to England off the back of a poor Ligue 1 campaign with Lyon.
Encouraged by Lovren's first, Osvaldo once again went in search of his first goal since his £15m move from Serie A side AS Roma, but Mignolet succeeded in denying the former Fiorentina man at the second attempt.
Shortly before the hour mark Rodgers opted for his second change as he set about changing the pattern of the game. The Liverpool boss replaced Daniel Agger with Spanish full-back Jose Enrique, as he looked to add more natural width to the Reds' defence.
Gerrard was presented with another opportunity to let fly from a dead ball, when Victor Moses was fouled on the edge of the Southampton penalty area. As he had done before, Artur Boruc provided an impressive save to deny Gerrard an equaliser, as Southampton hunted in packs to prevent further Liverpool attacks.
Mauricio Pochettino then opted to withdraw Lambert in favour of Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis on sixty-six minutes. Southampton's famed pressing game returned once more with a new burst of energy, panicking Liverpool into simple mistakes as the Saints continued to take the game to their hosts.
It was a game of 'firsts', and teenage starlet Luke Shaw almost got himself in on the action. Having swerved his way into the penalty area, he was denied not once but twice by Liverpool's Belgian keeper, who then reacted first to stop Steven Davis stealing in for an easy finish.
Raheem Sterling's pace got him in behind the Southampton defence, and whilst his ball evaded both Dejan Lovren and Boruc, Jose Fonte was on hand to hammer the ball away for a Liverpool corner.
Liverpool returned with renewed vigour, pouring forward once more before Morgan Schneiderlin stopped Kolo Toure's marauding run towards goal.
Southampton's second change of the game then followed in the seventy-second minute, with club captain Lallana allowing James Ward-Prowse to enter the fray to add yet more fresh legs to the visitors' cause.
Sturridge had a quick-fire double of chances go close, first slotting wide before curling a left-footed attempt onto the roof of Polish 'keeper Boruc's net, with time slowly ebbing away at Anfield.
Liverpool's pressure continued, with Luis Alberto and Raheem Sterling working space for Sturridge and Gerrard, both of whom were denied by determined blocks from the Southampton defence.
With just one minute of normal time remaining, Southampton manager Pochettino made his final substitution. Jay Rodriguez was sacrificed in favour of yet another midfielder. This time Jack Cork entered the action as Southampton set about closing out the game.
Sterling was slotted in on goal, but his poor first touch allowed Boruc to steal the initiative and gather before the youngster, who has recently enjoyed an England first team call-up, could capitalise.
Southampton ran out narrow winners in an end-to-end encounter.
The victory signalled Southampton's first win at Anfield since 2003, when Brett Ormerod and Michael Svensson handed the Saints a 2-1 victory.
Coincidentally, the result ensured that both of Liverpool's last two losses have come at the hands of Pochettino. The first came in a 3-1 defeat at St. Mary's last March, with the second coming in September of the same year.
Speaking to the BBC after the game, Southampton boss Pochettino said: "We are very pleased - the effort the players put in was amazing. We were up against the leaders and I am delighted.
"Overall, we had an amazing game, especially in the second half. It's really good that one of our defenders got on the score-sheet."
Liverpool chief Rodgers rued the absence of Suarez, alongside the injured duo of Coutinho and Johnson, but looked ahead to the end of the forward's ten-match ban for biting: "We were very subdued.
"Technically we were not very good and gave away a poor goal. It is one of the few poor days we have had. Luis Suarez being available is a positive as he has now served his ban and we can bring someone as good as him back."
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