Liverpool vs. Southampton: Winners and Losers from Anfield
Liverpool got their 2014-15 season off to a winning start as they beat Southampton 2-1 at Anfield, thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge either side of Nathaniel Clyne's equaliser.
The Reds finished second in the league last term, going close to a first Premier League title, while Saints finished eighth—but three of their players went to Liverpool over the summer and more departed elsewhere.
It might have been Liverpool who departed Anfield with the three points, but as always there were plenty of individual winners and losers on the day beyond the scoreline.
Winner: Raheem Sterling's Big Performance
First up has to be Sky television's Man of the Match—Raheem Sterling.
The young forward was in scintillating form early on, running at the Southampton defence and looking a real danger as his side dominated the early stages. Even before his goal, he had served notice of his pace and diagonal running, but a composed finish for the opening goal gave his manager exactly what he's been asking for.
Hard work defensively was needed from Sterling, and he obliged in the second half before he helped his team pick up the tempo once more after moving central late on. He won the header to provide the assist for the winning goal.
Loser: Glen Johnson's Continued Poor Displays
While young loan signing Javi Manquillo impressed largely at right-back, Glen Johnson was poor throughout on the left.
The England international was once more slow to release possession going forward, turned into trouble and offered very little in the final third. On defence he failed to stop crosses, did not sit tight enough to his centre-backs and never got close to either Clyne or Steven Davis.
It was lethargic, predictable and uninspiring, and he'll certainly struggle to stay in the side once Jon Flanagan and Alberto Moreno are both available.
Winner: James Ward-Prowse, Stepping out of the Shadows
Over to Southampton now. One of their best players of the afternoon was attacking midfielder James Ward-Prowse.
Given the No. 10 role to start the campaign, the young Englishman kept the ball moving nicely and was his team's best creative option in a first half, where they were largely second best.
After the break when Southampton were the better side, Ward-Prowse's ability to pick up the ball in spaces, link with his team-mates and be inventive around the edge of the box marked him out as their top player in possession. Used as a sub and from the right side last season, the summer exodus could mean Ward-Prowse gets the chance to make himself a key player for Saints this term—and this was a good start.
Loser: Maya Yoshida's Missed Opportunity
If Ward-Prowse took his opportunity, Maya Yoshida didn't really do the same for his.
Dejan Lovren's departure has left a big gap in the Saints' defence. Yoshida partnered Jose Fonte for this opening game, but a series of first-half errors could have cost him his place, including a mis-placed back-pass and another incident in which he was lucky to get away without conceding a foul on the edge of the box.
Southampton will likely still strengthen further this month—centre-back should be one area to be attended to.
Winner: Liverpool's Tactical Flexibility
It's nothing new for Brendan Rodgers to ask his team to play more than one tactical shape in a game, with 4-3-3 and a diamond midfield the two most frequent shapes utilised last term.
The Reds opted for both of those in the last half-hour of the game at Anfield, having played the first 60 minutes in a 4-2-3-1 shape with Lucas and Steven Gerrard as a midfield double pivot.
Already keen to ensure his players of the last two seasons were able to operate in more than one position, the summer recruits continue to offer Rodgers versatility, and the team's unpredictability and adaptability will be one weapon in their armoury as they mount a league assault again.
Winner: Ronald Koeman, Who Knows the Doomsayers Were Wrong
Ronald Koeman might have lost on his first game in charge in the Premier League, but he will have seen enough in the first game to suggest there is plenty for him to work with, that Southampton can beat plenty of teams this season and that there will be no danger of relegation—as suggested by Danny Griffiths of Metro, among other predictions.
With more players to come in to the squad and more time for training ahead, he'll be confident of putting some good performances together—and getting the results to go with them next time.
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