Southampton 0 Liverpool 3 match report: Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling on target as Liverpool soar into title reckoning
Steven Gerrard added a late penalty as Liverpool showed no signs of letting up their title push
Liverpool put themselves into the Premier League title reckoning as they moved into second place yesterday evening, winning on a ground where the two teams they climbed above, Arsenal and Manchester City, had settled for draws.
Luis Suarez celebrated his 100th Premier League appearance for Liverpool by scoring for the first time since the 4-0 victory over Everton on 28 January, a drought of five matches in all competitions. Raheem Sterling then netted with his first touch after taking the field as a second-half substitute to ensure Liverpool’s ninth League match without defeat, a fourth successive victory and a first win at St Mary’s since 2003. Steven Gerrard added a late penalty after Jose Fonte had tripped Suarez to make the win appear more comfortable than it was.
Saints beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield in September and 3-1 at St Mary’s in March – arguably the Reds’ most disappointing performance of last season – but yesterday the visitors rode out several spells of pressure to inflict back-to-back League defeats for Southampton and record a welcome clean sheet.
The subplot was the presence of nine members of Roy Hodgson’s squad for Wednesday’s England friendly against Denmark at Wembley – four from Saints, including the newly called-up Luke Shaw, and five from Liverpool, though Raheem Sterling began on the bench.
Southampton made one change to the team that lost 3-1 away to West Ham seven days previously, restoring Croatia defender Dejan Lovren to the centre of the back four for his first appearance since suffering an ankle ligament injury in the 2-2 draw away to Sunderland on 18 January. Liverpool’s only change from the team that beat Swansea City 4-3 last weekend was a place for Joe Allen at the expense of Sterling.
No doubt buoyed by the news of Arsenal’s defeat at Stoke City, Liverpool pressed forward from the kick-off, and came close to an opening goal in the first five minutes when Allen’s first-time pass sent Sturridge clear down the right It looked certain that a square pass would set Suarez up for a tap-in, but Sturridge did not put quite enough pace on the ball and Fonte slid in to intercept at the expense of a corner.
There was a brief scare when Shaw went down in a heap after an aerial challenge with Liverpool’s right-back, Jon Flanagan, but he continued after treatment. Flanagan was involved in another incident soon afterwards when he challenged Adam Lallana in the penalty area. The Saints captain fell, but Lee Probert, the referee, was unimpressed.
Instead of going a goal down, Liverpool found themselves ahead after 16 minutes. Suarez collected a throw-in on the left and moved infield, intent on exchanging passes with Sturridge. Southampton intercepted Sturridge’s return only for the ball to ricochet off Fonte and back into the path of Suarez, who slipped the ball low past the left hand of Artur Boruc.
Southampton should have been level just past the half-hour. Jay Rodriguez crossed from the right and Rickie Lambert chested the ball down into the path of Lallana. An excellent first touch gave the latter the space he needed to slip the ball past Simon Mignolet, but he rolled his shot against the foot of the post instead of into the net.
Liverpool, were now being increasingly starved of possession, although that was no excuse for Sturridge throwing himself at the turf on two occasons in the vain hope that Probert would err in his favour.
Rodgers brought off the increasingly ineffective Philippe Coutinho for Raheem Sterling, and it paid off instantly. Suarez took Steven Gerrard’s pass from deep and turned into space on the right. His low cross found Sterling, who stabbed the ball low past Boruc, 80 seconds after taking the field.
Southampton (4-3-3): Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; S Davis (Ramirez, h-t), Cork (Wanyama, 76), Schneiderlin; Lallana, Lambert (Gallagher, 76), Rodriguez.
Liverpool (4-1-3-2): Mignolet; Flanagan, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Gerrard; Henderson, Coutinho (Sterling, 57), Allen; Sturridge (Aspas, 86), Suarez.
Referee: Lee Probert.
Man of the match: Suarez (Liverpool)
Match rating: 7/10
Justin Bieber was one of the hardest hit
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