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Southampton 0, Liverpool 3: First Thoughts

A massive second-half turnaround saw Liverpool overcome a strong effort from their hosts and move in to second place after a win at Southampton.

Mike Hewitt

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

  • The opening was an interesting affair. Rodgers made a bit of a tactical switch, going with a formation that appeared to be a narrow 4-4-2 diamond going forward, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge up top, Philippe Coutinho behind, and Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen in a double pivot of sorts ahead of Steven Gerrard. When Southampton were in possession, the formation morphed to more of a 4-3-3, with Suarez dropping behind Sturridge, and Coutinho and Hendo swinging wide to deal with Southampton's fullbacks. It was an intriguing idea and one the hosts struggled with early, but the transitions were exposed once they figured it out.

  • The opener from Suarez was a pretty little poacher's effort. He'd given the ball to Sturridge at the top of the box then sat just off to make himself available for a return pass if needed. When Daniel lost possession and the ball bounced off Dejan Lovren, Suarez was there to pounce on it and finish past Artur Boruc to break his scoreless streak and complete his set of scoring against every EPL side in one swing of his right foot.

  • Coutinho did not have the best of times early in the match. His passing and control in close quarters were well off his usual standards. His defensive work was good, as expected, but otherwise... yikes. 

  • By the half hour mark, the momentum had swung Southampton's way and oh thank god the post and whizzing-just-wide finishing was on Liverpool's side for once. The midfield started to crumble badly, with everyone struggling in possession. Since the formation had conceded the wings by design, there was no wide outlet to try and dump the ball out to when things got sticky in the middle. Thanks to a very good Simon Mignolet save and some quality defending from Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, Liverpool managed to eke in to the half with their lead in tact, but were perhaps a bit fortunate to do so given the run of play.

  • Gerrard had a weird half. He actually did a fair job defensively dealing with the runs of Stephen Davis, but struggled mightily when Adam Lallana worked through the middle and Southampton's press neutralized him when Liverpool were in possession. He did an OK job chucking the ball up the pitch to try to spring counters, but otherwise was so scattered with Liverpool had the ball that he was almost invisible at times.

  • After more of the same for the first chunk of the second half, Brendan Rodgers hauled off Coutinho in favor of Raheem Sterling, and his pace made an instant impact. His direct run in to the box in support of Suarez and Sturridge just a minute after coming on left Southampton's defense in tatters, leaving he and Suarez with a simple combination to give Sterling a goal and Liverpool a 2-0 lead.

  • The longer Sterling was in the match, the better Liverpool looked. They had been playing fairly directly all match, but more in an "oh crap pressure and no one open HOOF IT" way than anything planned. With Sterling on and the midfield more composed, the directness started looking more intended and certainly much more effective. The runs from he, Sturridge, and Suarez carved open Southampton's defense time and again and forced them back a bit, greatly relieving the earlier pressure on the midfield and back line.

  • The end of the match wasn't anything exciting. Both sides put up a few half-chances, but for the most part Liverpool chucked around possession when they had it, trying to play keep-away while looking for a chance to spring the ball forward. The trio of Gerrard, Allen, and Henderson were immensely improved in the second half, though Gerrard's late yellow for a tactical foul on Lallana means that he's out for the next match. So. Yeah. Fun. (After further review, we've passed the English FA's cutoff date for yellow accumulation, so it doesn't matter that this is Gerrard's fifth yellow and he is not suspended until he hits ten cards)

  • Late penalties are fun. Getting the captain a goal is fun too. You know what's even more fun? Being in second place and just four back from the leaders.

  • Hearing happy singing from the travelling Kop at the end of a tough match is the best sound in the world.

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.

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