For a good portion of the match on Sunday afternoon, Southampton were the more dangerous side. Their second half exploits--including Nathaniel Clyne's wonderful equalizer--were particularly impressive, and they imposed themselves well on a Liverpool side that were among the league's best at home last season. The host's first-half foothold slipped, and Southampton were deservedly level and very well could have taken the lead. Lucky for Brendan Rodgers and company they didn't, and the manager's ability to turn to the bench to wrest control was crucial.
Rodgers highlighted as much in the post-match, noting the impact of Rickie Lambert and referencing the work of Joe Allen in a midfield diamond as well:
"We had to grind out a result and today was a brilliant win for us. It was a tough game, the first game back into the new season. I'm really happy with that determination and character to win a football match. As the season rolls on, we'll get better and more fluent. It was very hard-fought. They are a good side, they have got some very good players and an experienced manager that has come in and got them organised. It was always going to be a difficult game.
"To get the three points was vital. The supporters were brilliant for us today, as they have been in my time here. We showed guts and determination. Thankfully, we could change the game. We got to 1-1 and I could look to the bench and change the way we worked. We flipped to a diamond and put Rickie on and I think he unsettled them a bit. They know his qualities; we started to cross the ball into the box and that led to our second goal. Raheem won a great header and Daniel put a lovely touch on the ball to get the winner. I thought it was a great win."
With Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic still injured (though the latter is now available for selection, according to Rodgers) and Emre Can likely not fit himself, Rodgers' options were limited to Lambert and Allen, and both acquitted themselves well. Allen's energy and composure were needed with the side changing shape, and Lambert's presence gave Liverpool a much-needed different look as they sought to take the lead.
Individual match-changers will be available once the squad is fit and healthy, but just as crucial will be the work of the manager in adapting the setup when the original plan proves ineffective. Few in the league are as dynamic as Rodgers, and his recognition of the need to make a change and, perhaps more crucially, the willingness to do so, was vital in Liverpool earning all three points today.
- Liverpool 2, Southampton 1: First Thoughts
- Liverpool Loan Watch: Busy Start to the Weekend for Origi, Wisdom, and Teixeira
- Official: Liverpool Confirm Alberto Moreno Signing
- The Liverpool Offside's Transfer Round-Up: Broken Palace Edition
- Daniel Sturridge is Learning Spanish, Because it Turns Out That's a Useful Skill to Have