Talk about copying last season´s opener and really go again. A win by the odd goal against a red and white striped team (normally), a Daniel Sturridge winner and a miraculous save by Simon Mignolet at the death to salvage the three points.
The 2-1 home win versus Southampton meant that Liverpool got off to a great start to the new season, points-wise that is. The actual play left a lot to be desired. But it´s early days and a victory at this stage is always vital. All the other teams tipped for the top places struggled in their first game at the weekend even if three of them managed to win. Evidently no team is up to speed just yet.
Certainly not the Reds. A decent first half was followed by a second one where the guests dominated and seemed to be closest to grab a winner. But exactly as last season when Liverpool looked tired in the second half against Stoke in the first match we managed to hang on to the points. Last year a penalty block from goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in the dying minutes saved the day. The Belgian Red repeated his feat this time at the end with a marvellous finger tip save which steered the ball on to the bar and finally out of danger.
These kind of wins is always satisfying. The team doesn´t play well but is somehow victorious. Although, I hope that it won´t be too many of this heartstopping experiences during the season.
What was good and what was bad in the première?
The defence seemed a bit more secure and determined than on many occasions last season. In time Dejan Lovren will be a great signing. The midfield was on the other hand not up to par, let alone good. No energy, no spark, no running, and the middle of the park was as empty as a runway for the guests to roam free in. Especially in the second half. New formation and a lot more grit and creativity is required.
The front two did their job, scored goals and Raheem Sterling was Liverpool´s best performer. Daniel Sturridge scored but not so much more.
Some counter-attacking was promising and apart from a couple of lapses the defence was pretty solid. But the passing and movement must get better, much better. We gave away the ball too often, too easily. It won´t do against better opposition. Furthermore, the stamina level is still a bit form where it should be. A week of training ahead of the crunch battle with Manchester City could rectify the latter but the other factors of the play is probably at least a few weeks off. It will be a tough test on Monday the 25th.
A positive thing is that we now are on a road to a higher total of points compared to last season. Then we lost the corresponding game and landed on 84 points. So right now the Reds are on a path to 87 points. That is if all the other results from last season is repeated. And if we can get something out of the Man City match it´s looking even brighter points-wise since we lost at Etihad last time around.
Here are my ratings for the Reds that participated in the opening game (on a scale from 1 to 10):
GK Simon Mignolet 7.
Showed great reaction a few times to keep the Saints out and was a key factor behind the three points. Still a little bit shaky in the air and clumsy with his feet.
RB Javier Manquillo 6.
An enthusiastic and promising league debut by the young Spaniard. His performance was far from perfect but he proved to be quick to track back and fearless in the tackle.
CB Martin Skrtel 7.
None of his sometimes silly errors was seen and Skrtel´s performance was on the whole good. He tackled fierce as ever, was seldom out of position and distributed the ball well.
CB Dejan Lovren 6.
Not as good as aginst Dortmund but wasn´t guilty of any major blunders. He was commanding in the air and hit some fine passes. Taken for a ride when the Saints scored.
LB Glen Johnson 6.
A decent match by Johnson who didn´t lose possession as often as he usually does. His defensive play was indifferent but his mistakes was minimized for once.
DM Lucas Leiva 4.
Started fairly well but soon he disappeared and was not to be seen until he was replaced. He seldom broke up Southampton´s play and didn´t contribute with anything offensively.
DM Steven Gerrard 5.
A quiet match by the skipper who excelled with some inch-perfect 50-yard passes but on the whole he failed to stamp his authority in either half of the field.
RM Jordan Henderson 5.
Was as invisible as his compatriots in midfield. No deep runs, no decisive defensive actions and no telling passes. Except when he won the ball and perfectly served Sterling for 1-0.
LM Philippe Couthino 4.
Probably his worst effort in a red shirt. His passes was misplaced far too often and he was for long periods merely a passenger. Seemed a bit nervous.
S Raheem Sterling 7.
A constant threat to the opposition in the first half with his incredible speed. Played a bit deeper in the second period and lost some of his danger. A goal and an assist was a handsome payoff at the start.
S Daniel Sturridge 5.
Some energetic running and a decisive goal was his major contribution. Otherwise he was rarely involved in goalmouth action and lost the ball too often.
DM Joe Allen 5. (Replaced Leiva after 63 mins).
Was really keen to play and moved and passed well. But in he didn´t accomplish anything special but the Welshman seems to be a bit tougher and stronger than last season.
S Rickie Lambert 4. (Replaced Coutinho after 76 mins).
Didn´t touch the ball particularly often during his 15 minutes but his presence made it worthwile to send in some high balls into the Saints penalty area. One dropped perfectly for Sturridge´s winner.
A first match that gave us three points but not so much more. But in a week´s time:
We Go Again.