Liverpool suffered their first defeat of the season to a Southampton side that looked the more comfortable team overall.
Throughout the match Liverpool lacked invention and found their attacks frequently thwarted in Southampton’s defensive third, especially down the wings, which you can’t help feel was a result of Brendan Rodgers’ rather suspect decision to play centre backs in both fullback positions.
What’s more, the call arguably played right into Mauricio Pochettino’s hands as the Saints clearly went out intending to press the reds defensive four far up the pitch, a tactic which eventually drew the mistake leading to the corner from which Southampton’s Dejan Lovren scored.
Liverpool’s defence at times last season looked uncomfortable playing out from the back and on occasion they gave away chances and even goals that way, but this season so far had started to look like they had overcome this particular teething problem of the Brendan Rodgers project.
Yet, in their most recent encounter Mamadou Sakho gave a cagey account of himself at leftback and was involved with the most costly error of the game.
In the first half neither side looked particularly adventurous, with the best chance perhaps falling to Rickie Lambert who, while under pressure from Kolo Toure mistimed a left foot volley from six yards out. Steven Gerrard also produced what might just turn out a contender for save of the season from Artur Boruc with a freekick from about 25 yards.
The main talking point of the first half would be Liverpool’s appeal for what looked like a stonewall penalty as eventual scorer Lovren tripped Daniel Sturridge coming away from the goal in the 35th minute. No foul was given at all, and Liverpool fans have a legitimate grievance in that decision.
Yet, it was in the second half when things really got lively. Southampton came back out with far more tenacity about them. They continued to press far up the pitch and eventually got their rewards through a Lovren goal from a corner.
Shortly after, red’s keeper Simon Mignolet was forced to make a spectacular triple save before later getting down quickly to his left to keep out an effort from Pablo Osvaldo.
Once again a Liverpool team, who you’re beginning to suspect are being instructed to sit back a bit following the break, failed to make life difficult for the opposition and Boruc had little to do.
Once again Gerrard drew a save from the Polish keeper through a freekick, this time more routine, and Raheem Sterling’s touch let him down in a one-on-one with the goalie during the dying minutes of the match.
There are a few positives for Southampton to take away, apart from the obvious. Defensively, they continue to look solid and Nathaniel Clyne was particularly on the ball despite having to deal with Victor Moses, the only Liverpool player who looked capable of threatening really.
Having only scored two goals now so far this season, they'll also be glad to have gotten the goal the mattered.
The fingers will most likely be pointed to the manager for Liverpool’s defeat, and the thumbs-up may well go to his counterpart at Southampton for their victory.
Southampton did well and got their tactics spot-on, but weren’t unplayable, and it’s in your home games you really need experienced fullbacks in order to expose tight, compact defences down the flanks.
While Toure managed to carry off a couple of runs into the box over the course of the match, on both occasions he floundered before making anything off them. Sakho, on the other hand, lingered on the ball and got his teammates in trouble too many times.
The wind has officially been taken out of Liverpool’s sails, and they could really use a pick-me-up. If only they had a world class, bite-partial player waiting in the wings, ready to be introduced...
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