Daniel Sturridge gave Liverpool a 79th minute winner to ensure Reds started the season with a hard-fought victory against Southampton on the opening weekend of the Premier League.
It was the home side who started the better of the two as they dictated the possession of the game. However under new boss Ronald Koeman, The Saints lined up extremely well by not allowing any player in a Red shirt space or time on the ball.
Space at a minimum
In particular, Southampton targeted Liverpool playmaker Phillippe Coutinho. The Brazilian was tightly marked by Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin, sticking right on the former Inter Milan man and not allowing him thread the ball through the away sides defence.
Liverpool were left frustrated with both Sturridge and Glen Johnson shooting from well outside the box and failing to make Frazier Forster work in between the sticks.
However, it was Jordan Henderson who filled Coutinho's boots to set the first goal up. The 24-year-old won the ball inside his own half and avoided a challenge before spotting Raheem Sterling unmarked. Henderson responded by threading an inch-perfect pass, splitting the Southampton pair of Jose Fonte and Maya Yoshida, to find Sterling's run who calmly slotted his finish past Forster to put Liverpool ahead.
Liverpool failed to build on their momentum however and it was Southampton who responded the better of the two sides. They built pressure on Liverpool, pressing forward but could not break the superb Dejan Lovren who had switched camps from the away side for £20M making his debut at Anfield. He read the play well, winning headers decively and dropping off when needing to along with his presence bringing more confidence to Martin Skrtel's game
James Ward-Prowise had a mediocre effort on goal stopped by Simon Mignolet comfortably and then the Belgian International readily saved Schneiderlin's over-estimated free kick that almost crept into the far post on the stroke of half time.
That was not to be the final action of the first-half, as Liverpool countered a Saints corner and Sterling was denied his second goal of the game by the new Southampton keeper as he blocked the youngsters powerful shot inside the 18-yard box.
The second half began much like the first ended, with Southampton the better side and it took them just ten minutes to grab an equaliser. Nathaniel Clyne picked the ball up in the Liverpool half and drove at goal with pace playing a nice one-two with Dusan Tadic to fire the ball past Simon Mignolet. You had to fault Liverpool midfielder Lucas for the goal, who failed to go with the Saints right-back, allowing him plenty of space in the box.
The away side carried on their forward play and could have went 2-1 up when Steve Davies went for placement not power with his effort inside the area to be stopped by Mignolet low to his right hand side.
Captain was fantastic
Steven Gerrard inspired the Liverpool team by working hard for the back-four and Joe Allen replacing Lucas also added a more attacking-minded style to the Reds' play. The Welshman moved the ball smartly on the 75th minute before finding Henderson 20 yards out who's shot feebly was placed wide considering the time and position he was in.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers then introduced Rickie Lambert - another player moving from St. Mary's to Anfield this summer - who had not represented the club since he was replaced when 15-years-old. He replaced Couthinho who did not have his finest hour for the club.
Tactics change changed it
Rodgers also went for a 4-4-2 diamond formation as the Northern Irishman reverted to 'Plan B' which did the trick. Jordan Henderson, now played on the right-hand side of midfield whipped a ball across that was badly dealt with by Wanyama. Raheem Sterling picked up the loose end to head the ball to the lurking Daniel Sturridge from six yards out and despite being close to goal, it was a very clever finish that gave Liverpool the lead again.
Nonetheless, it was far from game over as Southampton almost clinched a point late on. After the second ball was failed to be dealt with from a Steven Gerrard clearance, Martin Skrtel was out-muscled by Grianzo Pelle. He found Schneiderlin who's thumping shot was tipped onto the inside of the crossbar by the Liverpool goalkeeper and new £12M striker Shane Long failed to head the rebound into an open goal.
The three points went to a very under-par Liverpool however the Reds players, manager and fans acknowledged that and know the side must improve if they are to challenge for the title.
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