Souness does not enjoy a happy return

Liverpool 2 Southampton 1
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The Independent Online
Graeme Souness will have reflected on several ironies in the fortunes of football as he left Anfield on Saturday, not least the contributions of players he nurtured there during his largely unlamented reign as manager to Southampton's defeat.

Souness cut short his after-match analysis when it was suggested to him - rather ungallantly - that there was the odd boo amid the generous welcome back to Liverpool that he received before the match.

Had he stuck around, it might have been worth discussing the role that young talents for whose rise he has inevitably been given little credit played, not just in this match but in his old club's long-term plans.

No less an authority than John Barnes has defended Souness' record in similar terms, pointing out that it was he who brought through many of the players around whom Roy Evans' side is now built.

Even if Anfield's friendly reception for an old hero and more recent villain was due more to his record as a player there than as a manager, it is an argument for the defence that was only strengthened by this match.

Steve McManaman was the Souness protege whose goal deprived Southampton of a hard-earned point in the last minute, but the most impressive graduate of his attempted rebuilding was Dominic Matteo.

Evans cheerfully agreed that, in a Liverpool side that despite respectable results has yet to click this season, Matteo is the bright spot so far.

A bleach-haired embryonic wing-back under Souness, Matteo has matured physically, tonsorially and tactically to quietly become Liverpool's key defender.

In their system of three at the back, it is the middle man in that trio who needs to be the calm presence, reading the game and getting into the right positions as though by instinct.

Matteo did that to perfection against Southampton and still found time to get forward to telling effect on several occasions.

"He was outstanding for us again," said Evans, with the emphasis on the word "again".

Even with Robbie Fowler and - despite his goal - Stan Collymore failing to strike sparks off each other, there were other good signs for Evans in Jason McAteer's work on the right flank and McManaman's continued ability to function when marked obsessively.

Such was Southampton's resilience, though, that there would have been no injustice if Souness had made his getaway - to a few boos, no doubt - with a point.

Goals: Collymore (39) 1-0; Magilton (58) 1-1; McManaman (89) 2- 1.

Liverpool (3-4-1-2): James; Babb, Matteo, Wright (Ruddock, 69); McAteer, Barnes, Thomas (Redknapp, 76), Bjornebye; Collymore (Berger, 76), Fowler. Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), L Jones.

Southampton (3-1-4-2): Beasant; Neilson, Lundekvam, Dryden; Maddison (Heaney, h-t); Oakley, Dodd (Magilton, 12), Slater, Charlton; Le Tissier (Watson, h-t), Shipperley. Substitutes not used: Potter, Moss (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

Booked: Liverpool: Bjornebye. Southampton: Neilson, Maddison.

Man of the match: Matteo.

Attendance: 39,189.