Liverpool move to within two points of the top four after beating fellow Champions League hopefuls Southampton 2-0 at St Mary’s…
Brendan Rodgers made three changes from Thursday night’s Europa League win over Basiktas as Dejan Lovren joined Adam Lallana in facing the side he left in acrimonious circumstances last summer.
Referee Kevin Friend was a busy man from the off; dismissing a penalty appeal in the opening seconds when Emre Can looked to have blocked off Serbian debutant Filip Djuricic.
Within minutes it was to prove doubly frustrating for Southampton as Philippe Coutinho struck a sublime opener via the underside of the crossbar.
The dramatic opening continued as Djuricic went down under another challenge shortly after the restart, this time from Joe Allen, before Simon Mignolet produced an excellent stop to deny Eljero Elia.
The hosts continued to dominate possession and territory, with the visitors playing largely on the counter-attack, as the opening 20 minutes flew by.
Liverpool began to discover their passing game there after and could have had a penalty of their own on the half hour mark when a sliding Jose Fonte felled Raheem Sterling.
The final stages of the half were much more even as both sides struggled with the extremely wet and windy conditions.
Southampton had further reason to feel hard done-by on the stroke of the interval when an advancing Mignolet appeared to handle outside of his area as he thwarted an attempted lob from Elia.
Both managers made alterations during the break as Morgan Schneiderlin and Alberto Moreno replaced Steven Davis and Lazar Markovic respectively.
A stop-star opening to the second half featured plenty of fouls and off-sides but little in the way of goalmouth action.
Further substitutions didn’t help the flow of proceedings although the introduction of the pacy Sadio Mane helped the Saints to get back onto the front foot initially.
Daniel Sturridge was also quickly involved after coming off the bench when his neat back-heel created space for a Moreno cross which Jordan Henderson sliced wide.
Out of almost nowhere Liverpool suddenly increased their lead with 17 minutes to play through Sterling
A neat move involving the England international and Moreno falling somewhat fortuitously back to him following a poor Matt Targett clearance.
Sturridge went close to making the game extra safe with five minutes to go but a late Southampton onslaught never really materialised anyway.
A great three points particularly in a weekend which both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur failed to win. The performance was far from vintage but there’s something deeply gratifying about battling to a hard-fought away win. Defensively it was another impressive display, especially given the unexpected absence of Mamadou Sakho through injury. In truth, a number of decisions went in our favour and on the balance of play a point would probably have been a fairer result but, with a trip to Turkey in midweek and reigning champions Manchester City up next in the Premier League, it was imperative that we got a positive result of some sort. It’s ten games unbeaten in the league now and, astonishingly, five consecutive away clean sheets. The momentum keeps rolling on.
Martin Skrtel – The Slovakian captain was a rock at the heart of Liverpool’s defence. Won almost every arial contest with the dangerous Graziano Pelle and expertly timed a number of key tackles and interceptions.
Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Lovren, Ibe (Johnson 75′), Markovic (Moreno 45′), Henderson (c), Allen, Lallana (Sturridge 62′), Coutinho, Sterling.
Unused subs: Ward, Toure, Balotelli, Lambert.
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