Southampton 0, Liverpool 3: The Charge Is On, Liverpool Go Second

Mike Hewitt

An uninspiring first half gave way to a torrid second half spell, and Liverpool did more than enough to secure three points and a jump up the Premier League table.

Do you like Liverpool being in second place? I like Liverpool being in second place. I like it quite a lot.

liverpool blog fc sbn

Southampton 0
Liverpool 3 Suarez 16', Sterling 58', Gerrard (pen) 90+3'

Let's get this out of the way first: that first half sucked. It sucked a lot. Things started out quite well and that lead to the Luis Suarez opener (which was lovely). Not long after that, though, Southampton figured out the trick to beating the diamond-to-4-3-3 transition Liverpool was making when going back on defense, and exploited it ruthlessly.

Philippe Coutinho had already been looking rather adrift in possession, and when the midfield trio of Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson, and Steven Gerrard got overrun and pinned back, he looked even shakier. Getting cut off from service only made things worse, and it forced Luis Suarez to drop deeper and deeper to pick up the ball and try to make something of it.

Meanwhile, Gerrard had been dominating Stephen Davis early, but then Southampton started running Adam Lallana through his zone instead and goodness gracious did that get ugly fast. Lallana ran rampant for most of the first half, and created a lot of nervy moments throughout the match. He was easily Southampton's best player on the day, and it's little wonder why he's drawn so much praise this season.

The second half started off much the same as the first, and it didn't take long for Brendan Rodgers to make arguably his best substitution of the season. Off came Coutinho, on went Raheem Sterling, and his pace completely changed the match. Playing in similar positions to Coutinho (i.e. centrally behind the strikers instead of out wide like we're used to seeing from him), Sterling started unleashing run after run after run straight at Southampton's defense, which created his goal and turned the hosts' tactics square on their head.

Sterling's goal was a thing of beauty. With Suarez pushing the ball up to Liverpool's right and Sturridge moving towards the near post, Sterling briefly lingered at the top of the box. Then, when Southampton's defenders committed towards covering the two strikers, he put on a burst of speed in to the chasm suddenly open in front of goal, and all Suarez had to do was square it in to his path for a driven finish past the 'keeper.

Seeing Sterling in this role was an interesting thing. It had shades of how Rodgers deployed Victor Moses early in the season when the squad was in a 3-5-2, sitting behind the strikers tasked with making supporting runs. Sterling was much more aggressive in his task, though, and Southampton simply didn't have an answer to him, especially since he was very clever in changing up where he launched his runs from and where they were aimed.

With Sterling, Suarez, and Sturridge harassing Southampton's back line, the pressure on midfield was lifted quickly, and Liverpool were able to grow in to the match and started creating a bevy of chances. From there it was only a matter of time before they got a third goal and killed the match, and when Jose Fonte hacked down Suarez in the box, Gerrard stepped up to the penalty spot and did exactly that.

It should also be noted that Simon Mignolet was massive today. The Belgian keeper has been drawing plenty of criticism in recent weeks, but he made two excellent reaction saves today that kept Liverpool up 1-0 at vital moments. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel also had some shaky moments in front of Mignolet, but in general commanded the defensive area very well and were an excellent shield in front of goal. Agger in particular did an excellent job against Lallana on several occasions where he'd driven in to dangerous areas.

liverpool blog fc sbn

Liverpool may have spent a lot of the match playing poorly, but at the end of the day, only this matters: they scored three goals and gave up none away from Anfield.

Oh, and this:

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