Southampton end Liverpool’s unbeaten run
Dejan Lovren scores the winner at Anfield as homeside struggle to create without Coutinho
Southampton’s Dejan Lovren celebrates his goal against Liverpool at Anfield. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard rues a missed chance after Southampton’s Arthur Boruc saved his free kick at Anfield. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Liverpool 0 Southampton 1: Liverpool’s impressive start to the new season came to an end on Saturday afternoon when they produced a performance against Southampton that will concern everyone at Anfield.
In the absence of the injured Phillippe Coutinho, the homeside created little and looked a shadow the side that had played so well, in the first halves at least, in their four games before today.
Dejan Lovren’s 53rd minute winner, a scrappy effort from a corner, was well deserved and ended a 12-match unbeaten run for Brendan Rodgers’s side, who are now sure to be knocked off top spot this weekend.
Lovren had more than one reason to smile after he escaped with not conceding a penalty.
The Saints — the last team to defeat the Reds in March — may not have won had referee Neil Swarbrick had the benefit of television replays which showed the defender brought down Daniel Sturridge in the first half.
That incident aside, Liverpool did not create nearly enough chances for a team who began the day top of the table. The return of the watching Luis Suarez, sitting out the final match of his 10-game ban, has come not a moment too soon.
Rodgers sprang a surprise in his line-up by experimenting in defence by selecting four centre-halves — arguably the strongest area of his squad — after naming Kolo Toure on the right and Mamadou Sakho on the left, either side of the returning Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel.
Neither options at full-back looked a success in the first half, failing to supplement their defensive duties with anything approaching the usual attacking roles expected of that position.
Saints’ right-back Nathaniel Clyde got forward more than the pair of them in 45 minutes in which his side did not have the majority of possession but were not afraid to commit men to attack. Sakho, on only his second appearance after a less-than-convincing outing in central defence in the 2-2 draw at Swansea on Monday, is seen as the long-term option in the middle but being broken in at left-back seemed almost like the Reds boss was accommodating the €18 million signing from Paris St Germain for the sake of it.
The watching Jamie Carragher, who patrolled central defence so brilliantly for so many years for Liverpool before his retirement last season, will no doubt have left with plenty of ammunition for his new role as a television analyst. Sat close to Carragher was Suarez, enduring his last punishment for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in April. He looks set to return for the midweek Capital One Cup tie at Manchester United so this was Iago Aspas’ last real chance to impress following his summer move from Celta Vigo.