Football: Liverpool accept gift

Southampton 0 Liverpool 1

There are certain matches that putative champions are supposed to win. Southampton away is not one of them. Manchester United lost at The Dell last year, Blackburn Rovers were held the previous season. Even when they collected titles on an annual basis, Liverpool would often fail to bring back a win bonus from Hampshire.

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.

Attendance: 15,222.

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser