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Jay Rodriguez inspired relegation-threatened Southampton to what could prove to be a vital victory against Liverpool. The 23-year-old joined from Burnley in the summer and showed why the Saints went 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 the home side's advantage with his 13th goal of the season coming when his 25-yard free-kick deflected home off Daniel Sturridge. However, Philippe Coutinho 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 the 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 No 1 Pepe Reina was unavailable, meaning understudy Brad Jones once again deputised in goal. The Australian conceded twice in last weekend's defeat of Tottenham Hotspur 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 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 the Saints and they could have doubled their lead in the 10th minute. Ramirez put 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 were 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. 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 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 Jones after taking a deflection of Sturridge. A lunge from Fonte denied Daniel Agger an immediate response, before a 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 the 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 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 Leiva.
It seemed to jolt the 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 as the Saints were on the back foot, with only last-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 got the goal they desired, thanks to fine work by Rodriguez. The former Burnley striker burst through on goal, 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 it did not come.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: "I'm very pleased. In the first half we played a very good game and we had many, many chances to actually go 4-0 or 5-0 ahead. We were fully focused on the game. My team believed and we had the correct mentality to compete well today. We prepared really well for this game and we fully deserved this victory.
"My team followed the same mentality, the same philosophy and same outlook. In the second half, they took control of the game for a bit but overall we dominated after that and had even more chances to increase our lead.
"We were a lot more effective in terms of scoring. We maintained our shape, we maintained our outlook and in all these matches we followed the same trajectory. It was overdue that we were going to get a victory like this today."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: “Southampton deserved to win. 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 today of being two goals behind. We only started to play when it went to 2-0.
"The three goals conceded were disappointing goals today, 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."
|30 Mar 2013||v Chelsea (H)|
|06 Apr 2013||v Reading (A)|
|13 Apr 2013||v West Ham (H)|
|20 Apr 2013||v Swansea (A)|
|27 Apr 2013||v West Brom (H)|
|04 May 2013||v Tottenham (A)|