REPORT: Southampton 0-2 Liverpool
A goal in either half for the visitors saw Liverpool take all three points at St Mary’s.
Philippe Coutinho’s third minute wonder strike was added to by Raheem Sterling’s composed finish inside the area with 73 minutes on the watch as the Merseysiders closed the gap on Saints in the Barclays Premier League table.
However, Saints would correctly have cause for grievance with the match officials for the outcome of the game, as time and again, key decisions didn’t go the way of the hosts.
Three penalty appeals were turned down, while Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet's handling of the ball outside of the area in the closing stage of the opening 45 minutes also wasn’t spotted.
Saints were right in the game until they were part of their own downfall when Morgan Schneiderlin’s pass was intercepted and Matt Targett’s lose clearance fell the way of Sterling, who made no mistake from close range to seal the win.
Both he and Coutinho have made a habit of scoring at St Mary’s in recent years, and they combined again to help the visitors to a league double over Ronald Koeman’s team.
Prior to the match, Saints welcomed back Matt Targett from concussion and the youngster returned to the left back spot with Ryan Bertrand missing the final game of his three-match suspension.
Morgan Schneiderlin and Shane Long were also back in the squad and named amongst the substitutes. Filip Djuricic was handed his first start for the club since his January arrival from Benfica.
Liverpool named all three former Saints players in their squad, with Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana both starting for the visitors. Mamadou Sakho and Steven Gerrard both missed out through injury.
The visitors got the game under way, attacking the Chapel stand on a wet and windy day inside St Mary’s.
The anticipation surrounding the contest was matched by a high energy start with Saints attacking Liverpool from the off, with Filip Djuricic going down inside the area early on under a nudge from Emre Can.
The action swung up to the other end where on three minutes, the visitors broke the deadlock with a sweet strike. Philippe Coutinho collected Lazar Markovic’s pass fully 30 yards out before letting an outrageous shot go which flew into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Saints responded well and had better claims for a penalty turned down in the fourth minute when Djuricic was again through on goal where Joe Allen grounded him. A follow up from Eljero Elia was blocked by Simon Mignolet.
On eight, Pellè cushioned the ball down for Ward-Prowse who hit a shot into the ground that went wide, before the game opened out further.
Skipper José Fonte was alert to the presence of Adam Lallana to make an interception from Markovic’s pass into the box.
The midfield battle made it a tough half for chances, with Saints eventually breaking through to turn the screw at the end of the half.
There was a big cheer on 43 minutes when Dejan Lovren was the first man into the book for a foul on Davis, but then there were two further notes of frustration for the home team with appeals which again fell on deaf ears.
Elia ran through onto Clyne’s crossfield pass to go one-on-one with Mignolet who rushed out of his area to block the lob over him, with the ball brushing him on the arm outside of the box.
Ward-Prowse’s corner at the end of the half saw the ball bounce up and strike the hand of Lovren, but again, the match officials were having none of it.
Fonte went close to getting a header on target in the last move of the opening 45 before the whistle went to a lot of jeers from the home support.
Morgan Schneiderlin was introduced for the second half in place of Steven Davis, while Liverpool made a change of their own with Alberto Moreno replacing Markovic.
The start to the new half was not as frantic, but four minutes in, Pellè drilled a low shot wide after neat link-up play in the middle of the pitch which showed that Saints were intent on keeping up the pressure on their opponents.
The introduction of Sadio Mané for Ward-Prowse on 56 minutes heightened the belief that the hosts could find a way past their opponents. Mané’s first act was to collect Yoshida’s pass into the area on his chest where spun and shot at Skrtel, to win a corner.
Saints appeared in control of matters, and Liverpool responded by bringing on Daniel Sturridge in place of Lallana who was given a mixed reception as he departed the field for the England frontman.
On 69 minutes Mané was brought down outside the area, but the set-piece routine didn’t come off as Schneiderlin’s pass out to Djuricic wasn’t read by the Serbian who, to his credit, rescued the ball from going out for a goal-kick to concede a throw-in.
Despite their endeavour, Saints were caught out at the wrong moment to concede again on 73 minutes. Schneiderlin’s pass was intercepted in midfield and Moreno pounced on it. The cross into the area was aimed at Sturridge, but Targett’s slide saw the ball land at Sterling’s feet and the winger did the rest with a calm finish through Forster for 2-0.
Saints’ third substitute of the day, Dušan Tadić was now on set-piece duty, and the winger tested Mignolet from range with a low arrowed strike before play entered the final ten minutes where the hosts’ hopes of taking anything from the game were evaporating faster than the torrential rain.
Koeman’s men continued to give it a go though, with Elia enjoying his battle against Liverpool substitute Glen Johnson.
The best of the late chances that came Saints’ way ended with Morgan Schneiderlin delivering a bicycle kick that bounced up at the near post for Mignolet, but ultimately, the hosts failed to score for the third consecutive match at St Mary’s.
Southampton team: Fraser Forster, Nathaniel Clyne, José Fonte (c), Maya Yoshida, Matt Targett, Victor Wanyama, Steven Davis (Morgan Schneiderlin 46), James Ward-Prowse (Sadio Mané 56), Filip Djuricic (Dušan Tadić 75), Eljero Elia, Graziano Pellè
Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis, Florin Gardos, Shane Long, Harrison Reed
Booked: Wanyama, Elia
Liverpool team: Simon Mignolet, Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel, Emre Can, Jordan Henderson (c), Joe Allen, Lazar Markovic (Alberto Moreno 46), Jordon Ibe (Glen Johnson 75), Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana (Daniel Sturridge 62), Raheem Sterling
Unused substitutes: Danny Ward, Kolo Toure, Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli
Booked: Lovren, Moreno, Henderson
Goals: Coutinho (3), Sterling (73)
Referee: Kevin Friend