Liverpool 2 Southampton 1: Three talking points as Sturridge strikes late
Liverpool 2 Southampton 1: What did we learn as Daniel Sturridge nets a late winner for the Reds?
Liverpool get the result they need
Inviting Southampton to Anfield for their opening tie of the season, Liverpool were keen to get their campaign off to a winning start. But it soon transpired that they weren’t going to have everything their own way, and they certainly weren’t going to emerge victorious easily. Grabbing the lead mid-way through the opening half, it was Raheem Sterling who broke the deadlock with a tidy finish for his first goal of the season in front of the Kop in the 23rd minute. Putting the opportunity on a plate for the England international, however, was Jordan Henderson with a perfectly weighted pass that left the chasing defenders, Jose Fonte and company for dead; it really was a wondrous delivery. And, following an amazing fightback from the visitors which saw them pegged back to 1-1, they eventually found a winner in the 79th minute. Effectively, it was vital for the Reds to begin the campaign with the three points they needed, because at this early stage it’s probably not all-important for Brendan Rodgers to see his charges playing the best football. After all, it’s a results-driven business and opening day matches can often be tricky affairs with players still getting back to full fitness and getting up to speed on the tempo of league matchdays. And with Manchester United and Everton – two competitors for the top four – both dropping points on Saturday, they should be content with the win, for now.
A new SAS?
Much of the off-season talk, predictably, has surrounded Luis Suarez. The former Liverpool striker has dominated talk both on and off the pitch as Liverpool fans both bemoaned and welcomed his departure in equal measure. Could the Merseysiders cope without him in their ranks? Would they spend his money wisely? These and many more questions continue to be asked, and although it will take time for the answers to be found, it remains clear that Brendan Rodgers still has a great core squad of players to choose from and they have the resources to do well. Stealing the win on Sunday afternoon thanks to lovely a combination from Sterling and Daniel Sturridge, the duo backed up the assertion that there could indeed be life after the controversial Uruguayan’s exit. Having formed such a productive partnership with Sturridge last season, the new Barcelona player’s transfer had many speculating that Liverpool would find it difficult to get the goals this term. But despite not playing to their potential, as many of their big stars looked off the pace and lacking in ideas, the importance of the goal will not be lost on most. And provided Liverpool’s potential new SAS can continue to work in tandem and increase their understanding, they might well form a deadly partnership given time.
Saints look far from relegation candidates
A dismantling of their resources, a new coach and much more besides, the early indications were that Southampton would struggle this season. But Sunday’s performance was a total rejection of that hypothesis as they threw down the gauntlet to Liverpool with a high tempo, upbeat pressing game that gave the hosts a lot to think about. In particular, Dusan Tadic put in a towering performance out on the left as he continued to wreak havoc down the flank with an unrelenting energy. In managing to pull a goal back through Nathaniel Clyne, they showcased a never-say-die attitude that’s sure to bring them very far in the coming months. But perhaps more importantly, the build up to the goal, as well as the superb finish, indicated that the Saints have the technical ability to mix it with the big guns. In a flowing move, it was Tadic who once again added the flair to proceedings with a clever little flick into the path of Clyne who hammered the ball high past the unfortunate Simon Mignolet. Then, in the dying embers of the match Morgan Schneiderlin hit the crossbar with a thunderous drive from inside the box, and new signing Shane Long could only head the rebound wide of the post. Unlucky not to get anything out of the match, the travelling contingent of Saints supporters will take heart from their narrow defeat and will feel much more upbeat heading into next Saturday’s home clash against West Bromwich Albion.