Football: Liverpool accept gift
Southampton 0 Liverpool 1
The Premiership leaders and new favourites will thus be especially delighted at gaining three points they would not have budgeted for and hardly deserved yesterday.
For much of a slow-starting game Liverpool were comfortably second-best to a persevering Southampton side in which Eyal Berkovitch was outstanding. Then, with 13 minutes left, the ball ran towards Southampton's right corner flag. Dave Beasant ran out to thump the ball upfield but scuffed the ball straight to John Barnes 45 yards out.
Barnes shot straight back, he did not hit the ball more powerfully than Beasant, but he did hit it more accurately. For several agonising seconds The Dell watched Beasant and the ball heading for the far corner of the goal. The ball won.
"He is one of the few guys who could stick that in," his manager, Roy Evans, said. Indeed, if it was not quite like the wonder goal in the Maracana 12 years ago it was just as remarkable.
Liverpool go into the new year with a five-point lead. However, they will need no reminding that, early in the year, Newcastle led the table by 12 points. "It's nice to be there but a team have to put together a run of 10-15 games and no-one, apart from Wimbledon, has looked like doing that," Evans said.
It is six years since Liverpool won the title, that success culminating nine seasons in which they were never out of the top two and finished first six times. Such is their relative decline since that, in the last five seasons, they have not once finished in the top two.
Southampton's decline, from occasional challengers to perennial strugglers, has been even more marked. But yesterday, as so often against apparently stronger teams, Southampton raised themselves. They dominated the first period, closing the ball down and outmanouvering Liverpool in midfield. Yet, despite a scramble or two in David James' goal, they never looked like scoring.
Liverpool, though emasculated by the impressive Ulrich van Gobbel's man- marking of Steve McManaman, could, and should, have scored. They could have scored when Mark Wright hit the bar following a 28th-minute corner. They should have scored when Robbie Fowler beat the offside trap to run onto Michael Thomas's through ball after 12 minutes. He drew Dave Beasant, looked across to the unmarked Stan Collymore, eight yards out, and shot. Beasant, relieved, saved.
It took the introduction of Matt Le Tissier, just before the hour, to ignite the game. Berkovitch immediately went close before Le Tissier - watched by Glenn Hoddle - tested James and almost set up Egil Ostenstad. He next won a free-kick which James saved well and The Dell primed itself for a rousing finish.
Then came Beasant's aberration and Liverpool had escaped with the points. "The determination was there and that was the pleasing thing," said Evans. "Over the years teams that win championships are the ones that grind out results when not playing well. That is an added quality we have got this year. A couple of years ago, maybe last year, we'd have gone under."
"It was the story of our season," said Souness. "We play football, try to do it the right way, and we let ourselves down with errors like that. If we keep doing that it will cost us our place in the Premiership."
Goal: Barnes (77) 0-1.
Southampton (3-4-1-2): Beasant; Maddison, Lundekvam, Benali; Neilson, Slater, Van Gobbel (Hughes, 82), Robinson; Berkovitch; Ostenstad, Watson (Le Tissier, 57). Substitutes not used: Magilton, Basham, Moss (gk).
Liverpool (3-5-2): James; Wright, Ruddock, Babb; McAteer, McManaman, Barnes, Thomas, Bjornebye; Fowler, Collymore (Berger, 70). Substitutes not used: Matteo, Kennedy, L Jones, Warner (gk).
Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).
Bookings: Southampton: Maddison. Liverpool: Thomas.
Man of the match: Berkovitch.
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes on Raheem Sterling: Moving between Liverpool and Manchester United still an issue
Radamel Falcao: 'Changes are not easy, but there are times when you have to'
Paul Scholes: I'm sticking my neck out - Hull to win and Newcastle to be relegated on final day
Premier League 2015/16 kits: Confirmed and rumoured strips from Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and others
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
- 1 JK Rowling horrified by Harry Potter actor Matthew Lewis's raunchy photoshoot
- 2 As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
- 3 The ten most unequal developed countries in the world
- 4 Saudi Arabia 'seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council'
- 5 New Zealand 'the best country to work as a prostitute', says sex worker advocacy group
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Labour leadership: Battle lines are drawn as members battle over party's ideology at first hustings of the contest
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...