Liverpool 0-1 Saints
Much was made pre-season about a fixture list that avoided the country’s big hitters for the first few games, but you have to play them sooner or later, and Saints came up against Premier League leaders Liverpool in game 5. We needn’t have worried!
That said, the home side looked as though they would give problems on Saints’ left flank, where you felt Shaw would have preferred the protection of a more experienced midfielder than Rodriguez, and it was a break down this wing that ended with Sturridge falling over Lovren’s outstretched leg in the penalty box. At the time, it looked at best a stumble and at worst a dive, but slo-mo replays do ask questions of referee Swarbrick’s decision to wave play on.
Of course Liverpool would still have had to beat Boruc from the spot, and the Pole was in no mood to concede a clean sheet, as demonstrated by a breathtaking save from Gerrard’s 22nd minute free kick.
Saints had only threatened spasmodically before the break, but they began the second period with some gusto, and Lallana nearly punished some fannying around at the back, but was denied by Mignolet, who had been the cause of most of the trouble.
The Reds weren’t so lucky when more poor play conceded a corner which allowed Lovren to score with a somewhat ugly header that proved too much for Liverpool’s last line.
Mignolet was then forced to a full length save from Osvaldo and a triple save from Shaw and Davis just after the latter had come on for Lambert.
With something concrete to defend, Southampton’s organisation didn’t suffer from this unexpected change, and judging by the early moves to the exits, most people knew that Liverpool had been truly frustrated well before the end.
It meant that the locals grabbed all the early taxis back to the centre, but that’s a small inconvenience on a memorable first competitive outing for the smart black away shirts (relax, though – another rant about the appalling home kit won’t be far away).
LSSC Man of the Match: Dejan Lovren, with the goal no doubt making a big difference. I was the only one who thought that the way former French under 18 captain Schneiderlin dominated England skipper Gerrard in midfield was key.