A second win in three home matches was earned thanks to a big performance from the hosts who struck twice in the opening 45 minutes to give themselves a foothold in the contest.
Morgan Schneiderlin tidied up a wonderfully crafted move with five minutes on the watch to get the ball rolling for Mauricio Pochettino’s men, who lost Jos Hooiveld to a knock on the half hour to an injury. Less than three minutes after the enforced substitution that saw Jose Fonte enter the action, Saints were 2-0 up when Rickie Lambert’s deflected free-kick got the better of Brad Jones.
The home side couldn’t hold their two goal lead at the interval though as they were pegged back going into the break by Phillipe Coutinho’s close range finish, to set up a fiercely competitive second 45.
As time went on the next goal was pivotal, and there was relief all around St Mary’s on 79 minutes when Jay Rodriguez was the man to finish at the second attempt after his initial shot was blocked, to earn a 3-1 win for Saints, ending Liverpool’s run of three successive victories in the process.
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld (Fonte 30), Shaw, Lallana (Guly 84), Cork, Schneiderlin, Ramirez (S. Davis 54), Rodriguez, Lambert. Subs (not used): K. Davis, Forren, Ward-Prowse, Puncheon
Liverpool: Jones, Johnson, Enrique, Agger, Skrtel, Coutinho, Allen (Lucas 46), Gerrard, Downing, Sturridge (Henderson 84), Suarez. Subs (not used): Gulacsi, Suso, Shelvey, Ibe, Wisdom
Referee: Phil Dowd
Attendance: 32,070 (including 3,163 away)
Nathaniel Clyne was restored to the starting eleven taking up his slot at right back, whilst Jose Fonte dropped to the bench in the only change from the team that began at Norwich last time out
Steven Davis returned to the squad after illness and was named amongst the substitutes.
The hosts got the match underway attacking the Northam stand in front of a packed St Mary’s on a bright south coast afternoon with a chill in the air.
Liverpool, in their changed strip of all black, looked lively in the attacking third of the field and won a corner inside two minutes when Jack Cork was forced into making a timely intervention from a Daniel Sturridge break.
A couple of minute later, Gaston Ramirez forced Brad Jones into his first save of the afternoon. The Uruguayan spun a volley from a Luke Shaw cross which the ‘keeper had to be at full stretch for to stop at the left post.
That proved to be a warning strike, as a minute later Saints took the lead. It was a beautifully crafted goal too involving all of the frontline, ending with Jay Rodriguez heading Ramirez’s cross down into the path of Morgan SCHNEIDERLIN who stabbed home inside the six yard box for 1-0.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men built on their advantage with some stylish approach play, and almost doubled their lead on 9 minutes when Rodriguez fired over. They had an even better chance moments later when Rickie Lambert was played through one on one with Jones, but the frontman could only strike at the Reds ‘keeper from the edge of the area as the shot stopper came rushing out.
Saints continued to find joy behind Liverpool’s midfield with Cork and Ramirez unlocking their opponents for fun. The space allowed Rodriguez to flash a drive at Jones, which the keeper held onto.
In the 20th minute Saints created another good opening when Shaw and Lallana combined for the latter to test Jones at close range, the ball ricocheted into the air, but this time unfortunately, Rodriguez’s volleyed effort went over the bar.
Sturridge responded with a dipping strike from distance that bounced up awkwardly for Boruc, but the Pole composed himself to gather the ball easily.
Saints were dealt a blow when Hooiveld was forced off with a knock on the half hour mark. The Dutchman had been having a great duel with Luis Suarez, but succumbed to an injury with Jose Fonte replacing him at the back.
But the disappointment was short lived for the home side who doubled their lead on 33 minutes. Rickie LAMBERT drilled a free-kick from 30 yards out which deflected off Sturridge in the four-man Liverpool defensive wall and continued on past Jones into the bottom right corner for 2-0.
Understandably buoyed by the second strike, Saints became more expressive in the final third with Lallana and Lambert linking up cleverly on the left flank, which almost drew another chance, but the visitors did just enough to clear their lines from the latter’s cross.
A matter of inches separated the home side from a third goal on 38 as Rodriguez fired wide with a shot on the turn, but Saints were grateful to Boruc soon after when he thwarted Coutinho with a low block just outside of the six yard box.
Three minutes before the break, Lallana went close to the target after benefitting from Ramirez and Lambert’s endeavour on the left, but the winger’s shot could only find the side-netting.
Saints looked to be heading into the break with their two goal margin intact, but a late pounce from COUTINHO gave the visitors some hope to hold onto going into the interval. The Brazilian took full advantage from Sturridge’s blocked shot inside the six yard box, to fire home under Yoshida who tried to clear from the line before the whistle blew.
Half Time: Saints 2-1 Liverpool
A half time downpour which began almost as soon as the teams departed the pitch, persisted into the start of the second period, with the grass taking on plenty of water from the skies.
Joe Allen was replaced by Lucas Leiva in a first change for the visitors at the start of the new half, who got the match restarted in the sweeping rain.
Coutinho had the ball in the back of the net five minutes into the new half, but he had been correctly flagged offside by the assistant on the right flank, as the start to the second 45 began with few highlights.
Sturridge flashed a shot wide on 54 for the visitors before Saints made their second substitution of the day as Steven Davis replaced Ramirez.
Davis took up the central role in the three men supporting Lambert in attack, but it was the visitors who continued to threaten with Lucas almost picking out Suarez who advanced into the area to try and stab home, but Boruc was quickly out to deny the frontman.
Saints grew into it, and were soon back on the front foot with Shaw joining the attack and almost getting the better of Glen Johnson down the left side, but managed to force a corner of the England full back as the clock reached the hour mark.
On 65 Suarez hit a free-kick from fully 30 yards out, down the throat of Boruc, who collected the Uruguayan’s effort with relative ease.
At the other end, Nathaniel Clyne got the better of Jose Enrique to cross dangerously into the centre, and although Skrtel missed it, Johnson could only awkwardly slice the ball out for a corner as Saints rattled their opponents once more.
Fonte thwarted Suarez at the near post prior to Boruc collecting a Gerrard delivery from a free-kick aimed towards the far post.
Boruc was again on hand to keep out a Sturridge low cross, before Saints returned to the attack, where Skrtel made a vital interception to deny Lambert’s low cross from reaching Rodriguez inside the area.
Gerrard’s rising strike from the edge of the area was collected by Boruc before Saints almost wrapped it up at the other end as Schneiderlin played Lallana in on goal. The midfielder took a neat touch to control the ball before his dinked effort inside the box was cleared by Skrtel as his effort squirmed towards goal.
But Saints would all but confirm he win when RODRIGUEZ burst clear into the area on 79 minutes. The striker had deserved a goal for his efforts all afternoon, and after being foiled initially by Jones, he kept his cool to tuck home the rebound of his own shot to make it 3-1 and surely game, set and match?
Both teams made another change with Jordan Henderson brought on in place of Sturridge, whilst Saints withdrew Lallana for Guly inside the final six minutes of action.
The contest looked as though it was up as three minutes of stoppage time were added on.
Jose Enrique was able to pull the trigger late on, but his close range effort from Johnson’s cross found the side-netting only, as Saints claimed a victory that moved them up one place in the Barclays Premier League table.
Full Time: Saints 3-1 Liverpool