Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Match Report: Southampton 3 - 1 Liverpool

Jay Rodriguez inspired relegation-threatened Southampton to what could prove to be a vital victory against Liverpool on Saturday.

The 23-year-old joined from Burnley in the summer for what was a club record fee and showed on Saturday why Saints forked out £6million for his services.

Rodriguez put Mauricio Pochettino on course for a second win at the helm in the sixth minute, nodding a Gaston Ramirez cross into Morgan Schneiderlin's path to slot home.

Liverpool fan Rickie Lambert soon doubled Saints' advantage with his 13th goal of the season coming when his 25-yard free-kick deflected home off Daniel Sturridge.

However, as good as Southampton are on the attack, they have often been found wanting at the back and Philippe Coutinho, a reported January target for the hosts, reduced the deficit in first-half stoppage time.

Brendan Rodgers' side pushed hard for a leveller but Rodriguez made sure of the three points with 10 minutes remaining, putting Saints seven points clear of the drop zone in front of a record Premier League crowd at St Mary's of 32,070.

Liverpool's regular number one Pepe Reina was unavailable for Saturday's match, meaning understudy Brad Jones once again deputized in goal.

The Australian conceded twice in last weekend's defeat of Tottenham and had to pick the ball out of his goal again in the sixth minute.

After earlier attempts by Rodriguez and Ramirez, the pair combined brilliantly to set-up the opening goal.

Ramirez floated a weighted cross to the back post to Rodriguez, who nodded across the face of goal for Schneiderlin to direct past Jones.

It was quite a start by Saints and they could - and probably should - have doubled their lead in the 10th minute.

Ramirez put Saints talisman Lambert through on goal but he could not find a way past Jones.

The Australian was again called into action to deny a stinging Rodriguez drive moments after dealing comfortably with a Ramirez effort.

Liverpool was struggling to cope with Southampton's attacking intent and failing to create anything of note at the other end.

Aside from an offside Sturridge effort two minutes in, Rodgers' side had little to show for their efforts as Saints' defence dominated.

Liverpool's backline were enduring a much tougher afternoon, with Rodriguez hooking over from close range after Jones parried an Adam Lallana strike.

The Reds were struggling to cope with the home side's wing play but beginning to make inroads at the other end.

Luis Suarez was incensed by referee Phil Dowd's decision to call back play for a foul on Jos Hooiveld when he was through on goal, before Sturridge struck from distance.

Liverpool will have been relieved to see the impressive Hooiveld limp off soon after, with Jose Fonte coming on in his place after 30 minutes.

However, their task was made all the more difficult three minutes later when Southampton netted a fortuitous second.

After Martin Skrtel was adjudged to have fouled Lambert, the Saints striker stepped up to hit the 25-yard free-kick that wrong footed goalkeeper Jones after taking a deflection of Sturridge.

A lunge from Fonte lunge denied Daniel Agger an immediate response, before an exquisite Rodriguez snapshot flew inches wide at the other end.

It was Liverpool that ended the half on top, though. After Artur Boruc denied Coutinho on a one-on-one, the Brazilian beat the Saints goalkeeper.

Steven Gerrard headed across goal to Sturridge, whose blocked shot was slotted home by the former Inter Milan man.

It was the 18th goal Saints have conceded in the final 15 minutes of the first half this season and Coutinho found the back of the net again five after the restart, although he had already been ruled offside.

Sturridge was next to come close, hitting a half-volley into the side-netting before Suarez almost latched onto a through ball by substitute Lucas.

It seemed to jolt Saints back into life as they began threatening down the flanks again, although Suarez was still proving a thorn in the side at the back.

Boruc saved a free-kick from the Uruguayan but Saints were well and truly on the back foot, with only latch-ditch defending and fine goalkeeping denying the visitors.

Boruc stopped a long-range Gerrard effort, before Jones did fantastically to smother a goalbound Lallana dink.

Southampton were, in truth, feeding off scraps but soon got the goal they desired, thanks to fine work by Rodriguez.

The former Burnley striker burst through own goal, brilliantly drove past Skrtel and tucked home after Jones stopped his initial effort.

Jose Enrique put into the side-netting as Liverpool looked for a late goal, but the only late action was a booking for Suarez after hassling Boruc.

No Complaints From Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers had no complaints with the result after Liverpool's recent resurgence was brought to a halt by a 3-1 defeat at Southampton.

Liverpool had won three Premier League games in a row to raise hopes of European qualification, but produced a ragged performance at St Mary's, particularly in the first half.

Rodgers was disappointed with the goals his side conceded on the South Coast and admitted Liverpool did not get going until they were 2-0 down.

"I thought Southampton deserved to win," Rodgers told Sky Sports. "We were nowhere near what we've been in the last number of weeks.

"It's very difficult at this level whenever you make the start we made on Saturday of being two goals behind. We only started to play when it went to 2-0.

"The three goals conceded were disappointing goals, but in between the second goal and the third goal we were very good.

"We got to 2-1 just before half-time and had more fluency and flow in our game. We created chances, but then conceded a poor third goal that was far too easy and from that perspective it was bitterly disappointing."

The international break means Liverpool do not play for a fortnight and Rodgers wants a positive response in the next game at Aston Villa.

He added: "I said before the game that this game was arguably going to be one of the toughest games for us this season and overall I can't complain.

"We weren't at our best and we're not the sort of team yet when, if we're not at our best, we can see through results.

"We have to lick our wounds for a couple of weeks before the next game, and we have to make sure it was a one-off and we get back to how we were playing, at a real high level and with confidence."

Sloppy Defeat Riles Downing

Liverpool winger Stewart Downing was left frustrated as his team suffered a lacklustre 3-1 defeat at Southampton.

Following their stunning victory against Tottenham a week before, the Reds arrived in buoyant mood at St Mary's on Saturday but were second best throughout.

It was a dismal result against a team battling for Premier League survival and left the visitors seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

"If you can beat Tottenham at home, you should come here and win," Downing told the club's official website. "If you want to be in the top four, you have to come to places like this and win.

"That's easier said than done. It's difficult with them being in a relegation fight and playing for the new manager as well. I still think we had chances in the game considering we didn't play well. We started too late and the game was over."

Early goals by Morgan Schneiderlin and Rickie Lambert left Liverpool rocking and only a Philippe Coutinho goal earned them minor consolation with Jay Rodriguez slotting in a cool third for the impressive hosts.

"We just didn't start brightly enough," Downing added. "The manager said we didn't start playing until we were 2-0 down. He stressed from the start that this was a difficult game, probably one of the hardest of the season.

"They are scrapping for their lives and, to be fair, they were the better team on the day. You've got to give them credit for that. We started too late."

Liverpool's Champions League Hopes Still Alive, Insists Henderson

Despite a disappointing 3-1 defeat away at Southampton on Saturday leaving them nine points adrift of fourth spot, the midfielder says the Reds' end-of-season aim remains in sight

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson says their Champions League hopes are not yet dashed despite a 3-1 defeat to Southampton at St Mary’s.

Brendan Rodgers had outlined his team’s ambition to claim a top-four finish and Champions League football come the end of the season after victory over Tottenham but the loss ended the Red’s three-match winning streak and leaves them nine points adrift.

But Henderson remains positive, highlighting games against teams above Liverpool as opportunities to climb up the table.

"It was a big disappointment against Southampton but Europe's not gone yet," he told reporters. "We've still got eight games to play and that's a lot of points to play for.

"We've still got to play some of the teams above us so we have to keep going. We have to pick ourselves up from this and ensure we respond positively against Aston Villa after the international break."

Henderson has endured a frustrating few weeks recently with his first-team exposure limited, but an injury to fellow midfielder Joe Allen has afforded an opportunity to force himself into manager Rodgers' plans for the run-in.

"I've just got to keep working hard," Henderson told the Liverpool Echo. "Before Saturday the team had been playing brilliantly so I can't complain.

"You can't really change a winning team so I've understood why I've not played. I just have to make sure that when the manager needs me I'm ready to take my chance."

Liverpool Ponder Move For Diego Capel

Liverpool is weighing up whether to make a move for Diego Capel in the summer.

The Reds are set to be given a £20m transfer kitty in the summer, and Brendan Rodgers is prepared to bring in some new arrivals.

Swansea captain Ashley Williams is believed to be a mooted target and Rodgers is looking to strengthen in other areas too.

Capel has had a disappointing by his standards at Sporting Lisbon and looks poised to be placed on the transfer list.

Italian website Tutto Mercato claims Sporting's financial problems means Capel could be sacrificed to free up funds.

Capel joined the club in 2011.

He has scored twice in the Portuguese Liga.

Liverpool & Chelsea To Step Up Interest In Fabio Coentrao

Liverpool and Chelsea are to rival each other for Real Madrid left-back Fabio Coentrao.

The Portuguese defender has been on Chelsea's radar for a while and could be a long-term successor to Ashley Cole.

The Reds on the other hand are looking to dip their toes in the market, with manager Brendan Rodgers expected to be handed a £20m transfer kitty.

And Coentrao represents the ambition that Rodgers needs to take the Reds to the next level.

According to Italian football site TuttoMercatoWeb, Real Madrid has placed an £18m price tag on Coentrao.

Manchester City has also believed to be courting Coentrao, as they look to revamp their squad in the summer.

Coentrao has managed only 14 La Liga appearances this season.

He has scored one and provided an assist.

Liverpool & Man City Set To Miss Out On Alexis Sanchez

Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez is ready to ignore interest from the Premier League and return to Serie A with Inter Milan this summer.

After enjoying a fine first season in Spain following his £30m move from Udinese, Sanchez has struggled somewhat in his second campaign at the Nou Camp.

The Chilean international has been forced to play an increasingly marginal role since Pep Guardiola's departure, and has been linked with a move away at the end of the season with Liverpool and Manchester City among the interested parties.

But according to Italian sports paper Gazetta dello Sport, Serie A side Inter Milan are set to secure the signing of the 24-year-old.

"Negotiations between Alexis [Sanchez] and Inter Milan are at an extremely advanced stage", revealed the paper at the weekend.

It is thought that an agreement has already been reached between Inter and Sanchez's agent Fernando Felicevitch, with Inter wanting to bring in the wide-man on a loan deal with an option to buy.

City was close to Sanchez in 2011 before he eventually signed for Barcelona, while Liverpool is in the market for wingers and Brendan Rodgers is apparently keen on the diminutive South American.

Inter president Massimo Moratti is also looking into the possibility of signing former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song and Spain Under-21 full-back Martin Montoya from Barcelona.

Joe Allen Withdraws From Wales Squad

Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen has pulled out of the Wales squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Scotland and Croatia.

It was announced last week that the Welshman had been troubled by a shoulder problem for several years and that, since October, it has been getting progressively worse.

The 23-year old had been playing despite the problem, however, Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers has accepted that an operation is needed to sort the problem out.

The summer signing from Swansea has struggled to make an impact with the Reds and was taken off at half-time during their 3-1 defeat to Southampton on Saturday.

Surgery will see Allen sidelined for three months and the Wales international is keen to start to recovery process as early as possible in order to be fit for the start of next season.

The withdrawal is also a bitter blow for Wales as Allen was expected to start against Scotland at Hampden Park this Friday.

Cup Final Despair For Ngoo & Wilson

Michael Ngoo and Danny Wilson tasted cup final defeat on Sunday as Hearts lost 3-2 to St Mirren in the Scottish Communities League Cup final.

The Reds duo, who joined Hearts on loan in January this year, were powerless to prevent their team slipping to defeat in front of a packed Hampden Park crowd.

Ryan Stevenson fired the Tynecastle outfit ahead on 10 minutes; however, goals from Esmael Goncalves, Steven Thompson and Conor Newton handed St Mirren a comfortable lead.

Ngoo, who struck against Inverness Caledonian Thistle on his Hearts debut to send them through to the cup final, weighed in with an assist for Stevenson to halve the deficit on 85 minutes.

However, the Saints held out to clinch their first piece of major silverware for 26 years courtesy of a thrilling 3-2 win.