Luis who? A lot of the talk this summer has been how Liverpool can replace the 30+ goals that Luis Suarez scored last season. What has been lost in the conversation is that the other half of the SaS partnership, Daniel Sturridge is still a Liverpool player.
On Sunday Sturridge shouldered the responsibility as Liverpool’s new main man up front with a late winner in a 2-1 defeat of Southampton at Anfield.
Brendan Rodgers has spent most of preseason working on improving Liverpool’s shaky back-four, but that unit showed that they are not yet a fully formed defensive unit when goalkeeper Simon Mignolet got in a tangle with Graziano Pelle at Southampton’s first corner, almost presenting the visitors with an easy chance.
But Liverpool’s strength remains in the final third of the field and after scoring 101 goals last season, Raheem Sterling opened their account in an incisive attack which split Southampton wide open. Midfielder Jordan Henderson won the ball in a tackle with Morgan Schneiderlin ten yards inside his own half and produced a great through-ball for Sterling, who rushed through and shot past Fraser Forster, making his debut following a £10m move from Celtic.
Forster got closer to Sterling’s snap-shot on the stroke of half-time and parried, but it was his Liverpool counterpart who produced the better saves of the first half as he clawed away a James Ward-Prowse inswinging free-kick and tipped over a Schneiderlin effort.
However, ten minutes after the break he could do nothing with Nathaniel Clyne’s powerful drive after the Saints full-back continued his run off the right flank to collect a Dusan Tadic backheel which beat Dejan Lovren. Mignolet kept out Davis minutes later with a low save after the midfielder found himself unmarked free 12 yards out as Southampton stepped up the pressure, while another surging Clyne run was halted only by a desperate Glen Johnson tackle.
England striker Rickie Lambert, another Liverpool acquisition from Southampton, came off the bench and had a chance to score with his second touch before Sturridge grabbed the winner with ten minutes remaining. Henderson’s cross was half-cleared by Victor Wanyama and Sterling nodded it back into the danger area, where his England team-mate poked home from close range.
But Liverpool were ultimately indebted to Mignolet, who in the opening game 12 months ago saved a last-minute penalty to secure victory. This time he brilliantly tipped Schneiderlin’s shot onto the bar in the 88th minute – and watched relieved as Long headed the rebound wide from six yards out.