By the end of last season, if Liverpool were going to manage a narrow victory it was almost guaranteed to be by a scoreline like 5-4 or 4-3. Yesterday's narrow victory may have had a similar margin, but 2-1 spoke to Liverpool's attack not looking nearly as convincing as it had by the end of last season.
Striker Daniel Sturridge, though, insists that this is still a side that can hit the attacking highs seen last season, and that he's capable of stepping up even further after scoring 21 goals in the league last season. Though he acknowledges that the pressure will be on him and the rest of the Liverpool attack, he's confident they can deliver.
"Of course there's pressure on me to get the goals now," said Sturridge speaking to SkySports following the match. "It's important for me and the others to step up. It's important as a collective unit that we provide the goals, and as long as we score goals and defend well, we'll get the results we need."
Despite only conceding once yesterday, Liverpool's didn't defend especially well—particularly in the second half—and as in last season's first three games, won by a cumulative 3-0 margin, victory was in large part due to Simon Mignolet's stellar goalkeeping. He made sure Liverpool started on the right note last season, and yesterday he did the same.
At the other end, while Liverpool as a whole were less convincing in attack, one player who did stand out was Raheem Sterling. Arguably Liverpool's strongest pre-season performer—at least until the final match against Borussia Dortmund when Philippe Coutinho shone—Sterling convincingly restated his case for being Europe's best teenager.
"Raheem showed his cool head to finish today and he showed it through pre-season as well," said Sturridge when asked about the improvement in front of goal many see in the youngster's game. "I'm glad that he has continued the goalscoring into the season. As the manager has said, he's improving all the time."
On a day when Sturridge was fairly quiet outside of his late goal and Philippe Coutinho cut a frustrated picture pushed high against a passive defence—the sort of opponent that has most seemed to frustrate him before in both Italy and England—it was thanks to Sterling's impressive performance that Liverpool got what goals they did.
While some of that can be blamed on the players not being quite up to their mid-season best, and some can be blamed on their continuing efforts to adjust to life after Luis Suarez, a lot is simply down to how well Southampton set up to frustrate. New manager Ronald Koeman devised a gameplan to frustrate the hosts, and for much of the match it worked.
"They made us work very hard," added Sturridge. "First games are always difficult. The pace was high, but we worked hard and probed for a while. When they got their goal, it was difficult for us, but in the end we ground out a result and that's what matters most."
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