Daniel Sturridge scores winner as Brendan Rodgers’ side hold on for win
Bulldozers have gathered outside Anfield over the summer ahead of the much anticipated stadium redevelopment, but Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling are proving firm foundations are in place at Liverpool.
The England duo secured a nervy, scruffy opening-day victory against Southampton with a start to the new campaign that felt like a replica to the last, Liverpool sneaking three points in comparable circumstances as against Stoke City a year ago.
In the highly publicised absence of Luis Su¡rez, Sturridge was the match winner then, too, and the similarity extended to the goalkeeper Simon Mignoletâ€™s late intervention in preserving three points. That was retrospectively acknowledged as an early turning point in a dizzying campaign. There will be no complaints if the next eight months are directed down a similar path.
For Liverpool the comfort was all in the win rather than the performance. The dynamism, speed of movement and nimble footwork that defined much of last season was lacking here, but it is hardly surprising. That will come when there are more miles in the legs.
This was the most typical of opening-day performances where jumping to conclusions beyond the result is hazardous. Indeed Ronald Koeman, the Southampton manager, had as much cause to be comforted in defeat as Brendan Rodgers in victory.
After a summer of gloom at St Maryâ€™s when Southampton hosted its greatest exodus since the Cunard Line was in its prime, there was much to enthuse the Dutch coach.
He had four debutants effortlessly slotting in, and when right-back Nathaniel Clyne cancelled out Sterlingâ€™s first-half strike with a thunderous drive into the top corner at the Kop end, Koemanâ€™s side looked more likely winners. Even after Sturridge glanced the 79th-minute winner following a Sterling header, Mignolet was called upon to push Morgan Schneiderlinâ€™s late effort onto the bar.