Liverpool kicked off their Premier League campaign with a hard-earned victory at Anfield over a surprisingly impressive Southampton side. The result rounded off a good weekend which saw both their biggest rivals, Manchester United and Everton drop points. Daniel Sturridge snatched the victory with 10 minutes left, after Raheem Sterling’s opener was cancelled out by Nathaniel Clyne’s blaster. Life without Luis Suarez has started off on a good note.
Liverpool raided Southampton this summer, buying 3 of their senior players. But only one, Dejan Lovren, made the starting line-up. New signing Javier Manquillo also made his Premier League debut at right-back. The new Saints manager Ronald Koeman started 4 of their new signings with winger Dusan Tadic, striker Graziano Pelle, left-back Ryan Bertrand and goalkeeper Fraser Forster all making their debuts.
Apart from the goal, the first half saw very few chances being created. Liverpool had a penalty shout denied early on when Sturridge went down in the box. Liverpool contained the bigger threat in the early stages and it paid off in the 23rd minute, when a beautifully precise long ball from Henderson found the run of Sterling who slotted neatly past Forster into the bottom right corner. The youngster had been given a similar opportunity 2 minutes earlier, but this time he showed great composure to put Liverpool ahead.
Southampton found possession hard to come by in the first half, but there was promise. Academy product James Ward-Prowse was very impressive in midfield, combining well with new signing Tadic. Their best chance however, fell just before the stroke of half time, to Schneiderlin, whose shot was tipped away by an alert Mignolet. In the second half however, the Saints came back into the game well, with a series of good moves. It all started off with the all important equaliser. Nathaniel Clyne made a brilliant run into the box, but it took a genius of a back heel from Tadic to find him and he duly lashed it into the top right corner. Game on.
The next 15 minutes or so saw the visitors dominate most of the game. Tadic and Ward-Prowse were the trouble makers again as they worried the Liverpool back four. They had a glorious chance to take the lead, when Davis found the ball at his feet with space ahead of him, but his weak shot was held by Mignolet. In the 68th minute, they had another chance very similar to their goal, when Clyne’s run was again found by Ward-Prowse, but this time the defenders were there to save them.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers started to ring the changes. He took off the highly ineffective Lucas, for Allen and also brought on former Saints man Rickie Lambert for Coutinho, who also had a tough evening. The changes soon paid off as they found the winner with 11 minutes to go. Daniel Sturridge found his poacher instincts when he reached Sterling’s header to prod in from 6 yards out. Just like last season, the forward had delivered the winning goal in the opening fixture. But the drama wasn’t over. With 2 minutes left, Liverpool fans had their hearts in their mouths when Schneiderlin’s left footed shot crashed off the cross bar back in to the box and straight into the path of Shane Long, but the striker’s header went wide. A glorious chance to equalise and Liverpool breathed a sigh of relief. Replays showed that the initial shot was actually a brilliant save by the goalkeeper.
The result meant that Liverpool start off the campaign on a positive note. With new signings Moreno, Can, Markovic and Lallana yet to feature, things look bright for the Merseysiders. As for Southampton, they have a whole lot of positives they can take from this game. When they lost their best players and manager, people doubted their ability to do well this campaign, but this performance is something to be proud of and they will most definitely come back with successful results.