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  • Liverpool 2-1 Southampton

New SAS has Liverpool up and running

ESPN staff
August 17, 2014
Raheem Sterling finished coolly after a stunning pass from Jordan Henderson © Getty Images
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Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge scored the goals as Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1 to prove that life after Luis Suarez might not be so bad after all.

Liverpool started the brightest and led after 23 minutes when Sterling latched onto a sublime through-ball from Jordan Henderson before holding off Nathaniel Clyne and slotting past debutant goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

But Southampton came out for the second half looking like a different side and Dusan Tadic's cheeky backheel on the edge of the area found the onrushing Clyne who lashed into the top corner from 12 yards.

The rejuvenated visitors almost took the lead minutes later, but Steven Davis' effort was weak when he found himself with just Simon Mignolet to beat.

Match Analysis

  • Key moment: Plenty of contenders: Daniel Sturridge staying onside for his goal; Jordan Henderson's pass; Shane Long's miss. But right before the Southampton striker's howler, Simon Mignolet pulled off an opening-day contender for save of the season.
  • Man of the match: With Luis Suarez gone, Sturridge has a new partner in Liverpool's SAS frontline, and the lively Raheem Sterling continued his pre-season form with an impressive performance.
  • Villain: He may have almost scored a late equaliser, but Morgan Schneiderlin simply did not turn up. A transfer is imminent.
  • Alex Perry

It proved to be a pivotal moment when, with 10 minutes to go, Daniel Sturridge beat the offside trap to poke home from close range.

Mignolet was called into action again in the dying seconds, expertly tipping want-away midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin's volley on to the bar. Shane Long, a £12 million signing from Hull, could only head wide with the goal gaping.

There had been significant change for both sides over the summer. Liverpool spent upwards of £100 million on eight new signings, while their opponents were still in debit having seen a raft of departures - three players to Anfield and manager Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham.

Only five of Saints' starting line-up started their final match of last season, with four players making their debuts and Long on the bench.

The most significant absentee, however, was Suarez. But a year ago Liverpool began the season without the suspended Uruguayan and took 10 points from their first four matches.

While a suitable replacement up front still remains a target for manager Brendan Rodgers, arguably his most important summer signing was that of Dejan Lovren - who made his debut against the club he left acrimoniously, albeit for £20m.

Liverpool are still looking for a leader in defence to fill the void left by Jamie Carragher's retirement the year before last and the manager's hope is the Croatian fits the bill as it was an area of weakness which cost them valuable points in their surprise title challenge last season.

The centre-back, incessantly booed by the visiting fans, certainly added more of a presence alongside Martin Skrtel and won headers in situations which have often caused problems in the past.

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Sergio Aguero scored in added time © Getty Images

It was not all plain sailing at the back in the first half with goalkeeper Mignolet getting in a tangle with Graziano Pelle at Southampton's first corner and almost presenting the visitors with an easy chance.

But Liverpool's strength remains in the final third of the field and after scoring 101 goals last season, Sterling opened their account in an incisive attack which split Southampton wide open.

Henderson won the ball in a tackle with Schneiderlin 10 yards inside his own half and produced a great through-ball for Sterling, who rushed through and shot past Forster, making his debut following a £10m move from Celtic.

Forster got closer to Sterling's snap-shot on the stroke of half-time and parried - but it was his Liverpool counterpart who produced the better saves of the first half as he clawed away a James Ward-Prowse in-swinging free-kick and tipped over a Schneiderlin effort.

But he could do nothing with Clyne's powerful drive after the Saints full-back continued his run off the right flank to collect Tadic's skillful pass which beat Lovren.

Mignolet kept out Davis minutes later with a low save after the midfielder found himself unmarked free 12 yards out as Southampton stepped up the pressure, while another surging Clyne run was halted only by a desperate Glen Johnson tackle.

England striker Rickie Lambert, another Liverpool acquisition from Southampton, came off the bench and had a chance to score with his second touch before Sturridge grabbed the winner with 10 minutes remaining.

Henderson's cross was half-cleared by Victor Wanyama and Sterling nodded it back into the danger area, where his England team-mate poked home from close range.

But Liverpool were ultimately indebted to Mignolet, who in the opening game 12 months ago saved a last-minute penalty to secure victory.

This time he brilliantly tipped Schneiderlin's shot onto the bar in the 88th minute - and watched relieved as Long headed the rebound wide from six yards out.

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