Defeated Liverpool looking forward to Suarez comeback
Posted Monday, September 23 2013 at 01:00
LONDON- At the end, Southampton’s victorious team queued to throw their shirts into the grateful arms of their supporters who had travelled from the south coast more in hope than expectation.
By then, Liverpool’s players had trooped dejectedly from the pitch, a group of men stripped of their pride.
Only one man attached to Liverpool Football Club had occasion to be satisfied at Anfield yesterday: Luis Suarez. The end of his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic 153 days ago means that the Uruguayan striker is available to resume his career for Liverpool in the Capital One Cup match against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday. On Saturday night his manager Brendan Rodgers admitted: ‘I think that is the big positive from today.’
He could find no others, no matter where he looked after a performance that mocked Liverpool’s position at the top of the Premier League. ‘The brutal honesty of it is that we never got going,’ he said. ‘Technically, we were lethargic, flat and slow. It hurts.’ ‘This is our first defeat since March, funnily enough against Southampton. We’ve had two poor performances against them and it’s cost us.’
Suarez tried shamelessly to plot his departure from Anfield in the summer but the reality is he needs the club as much the club need him if he is to reignite a career blighted by controversy. ‘It will be great to have him back, he will make a difference,’ said Rodgers. ‘He’s a worker and a fighter. He is in good condition, having played in games behind closed doors and having done specific work with the conditioning team. All he needs now is to get in some games.’
The Uruguayan watched from the stands, no doubt as mystified by Liverpool’s lacklustre football as the fans reduced to silence by such insipid displays from Daniel Sturridge, Iago Aspas, Victor Moses and substitute Raheem Sterling.
Yet Southampton deserve enormous credit for their part in Liverpool’s downfall on Saturday. In midfield, Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana and Victor Wanyama showed a greater appetite for winning the ball, and distributing it, than all but Steven Gerrard. In defence, Dejan Lovren, Jose Fonte, Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne covered the ground with impeccable timing and absolute resolution to be first to the ball when it most mattered.
And goalkeeper Artur Boruc made two saves of outstanding precision from free-kicks by Gerrard, one either side of half-time. For manager Mauricio Pochettino there was the satisfaction of becoming the first man to mastermind a defeat of Liverpool since he had accomplished the same feat, at Southampton, in March.
‘Our performance was outstanding today,’ said Pochettino. ‘I think over 90 minutes we were the superior team. But I was especially pleased with the second half, when we pressed higher and could go on the counter-attack.’
With injuries to his recognised full-backs, Rodgers had selected a back four of central defenders: Kolo Toure, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho. Imagine his disbelief when Southampton’s match-winning goal came from a 53rd-minute corner, softly conceded by Toure after a swift throw from Rickie Lambert caused panic. Lallana’s delivery to the far post was met by Lovren and his header was already across the line before Gerrard, on the near post, lashed the ball into the roof of the Liverpool net.
Lovren claimed the ball afterwards and, in mitigation, argued that his first goal, on his first visit to Anfield, warranted the reward normally reserved for those scoring a hat-trick.
‘It was always a dream to play at Anfield,’ he smiled. ‘I take the ball for this goal but what is most important is that we take the three points back with us to Southampton. It was a good weekend for us.’