Such is the irony of football. A club buys the best players from another club and gets to face that very club in their first game of the new season. The Premier League delivered its most exciting game so far; the powers that be couldn’t have picked better openers for Southampton and Liverpool.
The league may have taken a page from the NBA‘s Christmas day program, which usually pits the teams with popular grievances up against each other. During the offseason, Liverpool relieved Southampton of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren, so naturally the Saints came marching into Anfield with a vindictive agenda. They were out to prove that they could still compete at the highest level even with ranks depleted.
It was end-to-end stuff at the Merseyside, with both teams attacking and sharing possession. Raheem Sterling put Liverpool ahead in the first half with a calm finish after receiving lovely long ball from Jordan Henderson.
Southampton equalized in the second half when Nathaniel Clyne scored with a powerful shot in the box after he had followed his own pass to get on the end of a sublime back-heeled return from Dusan Tadic. The Saints could have probably gone on to win; their best chance came from an inane shot by Steven Davis which lacked both power and placement.
It looked like Southampton were headed for a draw and a last laugh against their tormentors, but as luck would have it, they were again undone by Sterling in the 79th minute when he headed a dainty ball for Daniel Sturridge to tap in.The Reds went on to win 2-1.
One has to feel sorry for Southampton; last season the club had some of the league’s best players and one of the best managers. They even rubbed shoulders with teams at the top of the table for a few weeks. The Saints had ushered in a new era and their future looked bright, but in the space of two months, they lost their manager and choicest squad members.
The team still looks a threat and their new manager has done very well with the players at his disposal, but he needs to find a way to replace the quality. They were very good against Liverpool today; they had several chances to win the game, and for long periods, it seemed like a reprisal was in the cards. They were extremely unlucky to come up empty handed, but results should improve.
Victory today would have left the Saints with ample consolation, but the Reds were determined not to let that happen. They have added insult to injury on the first day of their season, and Southampton have been left to lick their reopened wounds. Fortunately, the Saints will only have to do this one more time as the league hasn’t copied the NBA’s 82-game schedule as yet.