Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Liverpool 0 Southampton 1

You’ll never walk alone, Liverpool supporters avow in spine-tingling harmony, and yet the sight of Luis Suárez in the Anfield stands throughout this limp defeat to Southampton strengthened impressions that Brendan Rodgers’ team are little more than a one-man band.

The return of the Uruguayan, serving out the final game here of his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, can hardly come soon enough if such a disjointed performance is an accurate reflection of their ills.

On this evidence, the revival plotted in recent weeks has been nothing more than illusory. The hosts, beaten convincingly by Southampton through Dejan Lovren’s second-half goal, boasted little imaginative spark as both Daniel Sturridge and Victor Moses flattered to deceive. As for the ineffectual Iago Aspas, hooked after 45 minutes to make way for teenage prodigy Raheem Sterling, the Spanish striker looked more like Desdemona than Iago in turning in a first-half display of quite shocking timidity.

The last defeat for Brendan Rodgers’ players had come at St Mary’s Stadium in March, 13 games ago, and the marauders from the south coast turned out to be their undoing once more as they succumbed in tepid fashion.

Mauricio Pochettino, the Southampton manager, reflected: “It was an amazing effort from the entire team. It is an important win against the league leaders but we refuse to get carried away. We will still be back in training at 10am.”

If his verdict sounded stilted then that is because the Argentine is still, rather surprisingly, talking via a translator after more than eight months in England. But whatever Pochettino imparted to his charges yesterday plainly resonated as Southampton punished Liverpool for a lack of ambition.

Rodgers admitted: “We just never got going – we were flat and slow from the off. This hurts, because we haven’t tasted defeat for such a long time. It is hard to swallow.”

In mitigation, he has had the misfortune to lose his most talismanic players at the same time. The contribution of Suárez up front is incalculable and the absence of attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho, the nimble young Brazilian sidelined until January with a shoulder injury, also stymies Liverpool’s creativity.

“The one positive from this game is that Luis is now back and available,” Rodgers said of Suárez, as the two seek to repair their relationship after a prolonged summer transfer tussle. “He is in condition, and he has been doing a lot of specific work with our fitness team. He’s a worker and a fighter. Of course as a manager I would like a stronger squad, but otherwise you cannot underestimate how well these players have done. Don’t forget that this is our first Premier League defeat since March.”

Ultimately, Liverpool were the architects of their own downfall, not least in a lamentably disjointed opening period. About the most pleasing moment of composure came when Pochettino controlled an errant ball with his Italian leather brogues. Liverpool’s formation looked static – especially with a back line comprised of four centre-backs in Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Mahmadou Sakho – and their attacking game proved equally inert, Jordan Henderson serving as no kind of deputy for Coutinho.

Their one threat was delivered in the form of Steven Gerrard’s free kicks, but Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc enjoyed an inspired afternoon to repel the danger. Rodgers had no option but to try to energise the attack, substituting Aspas with Sterling, deployed as a dynamic wingback to forage forward at every opportunity.

It did not work, as Lovren, the Bosnian-born centre-back who signed from Lyon during the summer transfer window, outmuscled Agger at the far post to capitalise on Liverpool’s sluggish play and register his maiden Southampton goal.

From there Rodgers’ men were alarmingly toothless as they chased an equaliser, with Sterling and Sturridge particularly profligate.

It could have been even worse for Liverpool when an error by Agger allowed in Lallana for a glimpse of the net. Luke Shaw, aided by a couple of ricochets, also surged through the home defence to draw a fine instinctive save from Simon Mignolet.

The Belgian goalkeeper again kept out the follow-up when the ball cannoned off Sakho, fashioning a desperate clearance before Steven Davis could pounce.

Southampton, understandably, were more passive as the clock ticked down but they still comfortably closed out a fifth league win in their past seven encounters with Liverpool, who are at risk of being displaced by Arsenal at the top of the table.

In the eyes of an impatient Kop, Liverpool remain an infuriating work in progress.

Source: Telegraph

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