By jpa90, 01-12-2012, 18:27:27
Liverpool got back to winning ways with a 1-0 win against Southampton at Anfield in a game which the home side bossed. Daniel Agger’s header was all that separated the sides but the Reds could have won the game by a much bigger margin. Southampton offered very little in front of goal but after a poor result in the middle of the week, a clean sheet was a top priority for Brendan Rodgers’ side.
|It didn’t take Rickie Lambert long to test his shooting capability when he released a long range effort early on. Although he couldn’t reach the ball with his diving attempt, Pepe Reina was happy to let it drift harmlessly wide.
Liverpool’s ability to control possession was allowing them to move the ball into attack and utilise the wide channels. The Reds’ first real chance came when Jonjo Shelvey attempted a volley on the edge of the box, but he hit his shot into the ground giving Paulo Gazzaniga an easy save.
Glen Johnson made several promising runs down the right side in the first ten minutes and the home side nearly took the lead when his cross flashed past the face of the goal without anybody getting a touch. Johnson again received the ball in space on the right wing, an area that Southampton were yet to tighten. When Johnson’s cross was deflected for a corner, the ball fell to Steven Gerrard whose fierce shot was deflected away from goal by Morgan Schneiderlin.
Shelvey forced a save out of Gazzaniga when he ran onto a clever pass from Gerrard. Despite taking it wide, Shelvey aimed his effort towards the far post but Gazzaniga was able to palm the ball away. Luis Suarez had an identical opportunity shortly afterwards but was again thwarted by Gazzaniga, who knew he was in for a busy afternoon.
The home side nearly took the lead when a route one pass from Reina found Suarez in Southampton’s penalty area. The striker worked the ball around Gazzaniga but after ricocheting off several players, the ball rolled wide. The resulting corner saw Martin Skrtel’s header loop over the bar and Liverpool’s familiar frustration of failing to make one of their many chances count was beginning to rise.
Whilst attempting to create an opportunity in the other half, the Saints gave the ball away far too easily and Liverpool pushed out of defence with a fast-paced counter-attack. Suarez found Shelvey with a superb through ball but his pass could not find Sterling. The ball fell to Gerrard who fed it back to Shelvey on the right. Shelvey released a powerful strike which came crashing back off the far post, leaving Southampton extremely lucky to still be level.
Gaston Ramírez brought down Suarez on the edge of the penalty area and the Uruguayan took the preceding free-kick, which pinged off the cross bar. Determined to take the lead, the ball was played back into the box and Daniel Agger met the cross with his head. His directed effort sailed over Gazzaniga and under the bar to make it 1-0 to the Reds.
Reina ensured that his team went into half time with the lead when he made a last-gasp leap to push Lambert’s long-range volley out for a corner. With the vast majority of chances and a deserved lead, Liverpool’s task was only half complete as they still needed to close out the game in the second half, a task that the Reds have struggled with this season.
The Saints started the second half in an attacking frame of mind, forcing an early corner and giving Reina the important job of preventing an early comeback. The Spaniard stopped an early shot but a determined Southampton were much more lively and willing to venture into Liverpool’s half.
Once Liverpool had taken Southampton’s early onslaught under control, they began working the ball down the right channel where they had enjoyed their best chances in the first half. Suarez was doing a fantastic job of creating space deep in Southampton’s half and the visitor’s defence was having a torrid time of trying to deal with his ingenious movement and skill.
Johnson was again involved in a well-worked Liverpool attack when he found Jose Enrique unmarked on the left wing. Liverpool were keen to close out the game but Jose Enrique’s shot was straight at Gazzaniga.
Unlike the first half, Southampton were making the most of their possession of the ball. The visitors could not work a pass into the box however and Liverpool were quick to push out of defence. Jose Enrique was again allowed to shoot late on in the game but his low shot was saved when Gazzaniga got down to his left.
Jose Fonte lost his bearings in defence and allowed Sterling to jump in and play a ball into Suarez. The striker got a toe to the ball but his attempt missed the target. Sterling was then unlucky not to double Liverpool’s lead when he was provided with a wonderful pass from Suarez, only to be closed down deep in Southampton’s penalty area.
One goal was enough for Liverpool to seal all three points although they could have easily scored more. Lucas lasted an impressive 88 minutes in his first game after injury and his performance exceeded what was expected of the midfielder after such a long time out.
Southampton have to regroup before one of the most important games of their season so far when they take on Reading next Saturday. Liverpool face West Ham United on Sunday but will be without their suspended talisman Suarez, who picked up his fifth booking of the season.
Kopworld man of the match: Glen Johnson