Late Sturridge Winner Denies Brave Saints

Daniel Sturridge’s late winner snatched a draw from a brave Southampton and handed an opening day victory to an underwhelming Liverpool side.

The Saints, despite their summer exodus, produced a spirited performance and dominated large spells of the match.

But Liverpool, who were playing their first match after the sale of Luis Suarez, rode their luck and held out to claim an important victory.

Southampton, who last season beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield and finished 8th, were not expected to compete after the sales of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, and Calum Chambers and the departure of their manager Mauricio Pochettino.

So when the home team opened the scoring after 23 minutes in front of the Kop, many expected the reds to win big like they did so many times last season.

The goal was created and scored by two of Liverpool’s young talents. Jordan Henderson’s curling left foot pass played in Raheem Sterling who clinically slipped the ball past new Saints keeper Fraser Forster.

With no standout result or performance on the opening Saturday of the 2014/15 Premier League, Liverpool fans were hoping their team would make a statement with a good performance.

It soon became clear, however, that Southampton would not be easily beaten.

Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet was twice called into action before the break, having to tip shots from first James Ward Prowse and then Morgan Schneiderlin, over the bar.

It was a sign of things to come and Southampton stared the second half as brightly as the finished the first.

Saints boss Ronald Koeman stated in the summer that Southampton have a ‘bright future’ and with this performance they have every reason to be. Their full backs Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand, who is an excellent replacement of Luke Shaw, impressed and Ward Prowse and Dusan Tadic, who scored 16 goals from 33 appearances for FC Twente last season, created numerous chances from midfield.

After 55 minutes Southampton deservedly scored an exquisite equaliser. Clyne started the move on the right side and passed inside to Tadic who, with his back to goal, cleverly back heeled the ball into the path of the on running full back. Clyne then powered an unstoppable shot high into the roof of the net.

Anfield was silenced and only 5 minutes later the visitors wasted a great chance to take the lead.

Tadic and Ward Prowse linked up down the left  before Ward Prowse squared the ball to the unmarked Steven Davis who, from 12 yards out, failed to beat Mignolet with a weak low shot.

The chance was the wake up call that Liverpool needed and Brendan Rodgers brought on Joe Allen and Rickie Lambert, who was warmly applauded by both fans, before switching to a 4-4-2 diamond.

Liverpool increased their intensity after the change and started to take charge of the game again after Southampton’s good spell and it wasn’t long before they regained the lead.

Unlike the first two goals of the match, Sturridge’s goal was scrappy but he didn’t care as he wheeled away in celebration. After Southampton failed to deal with a cross, Sterling headed the ball to Sturridge who only needed to tap in.

Southampton didn’t give up however, and after bringing on £12 million signing Shane Long they had a glorious chance to level. Schneiderlin’s fierce shot was superbly tipped onto the bar by Mignolet who was then helpless as the ball fell to Long but Saint’s new signing failed to get his header on target.

Just like the opening game of last season, Mignolet’s late save earned Liverpool the win and three points as the impressive Southampton were denied a draw that would have been deserved.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Manquillo, Skrtel, Lovren, Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas ( Allen 63′ ), Henderson, Coutinho ( Lambert 76′ ), Sterling, Sturridge

Southampton: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand, Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Davis ( Isgrove 82′ ), Ward Prowse,  Tadic ( Long 74′ ), Pelle

Goals: Sterling ( 23′), Clyne ( 56′), Sturridge ( 79′)

MOTM: Raheem Sterling

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