Match Report by Anthony Jones for talklfc
It's been a bad week. An awful week. Recovering addicts talk of the need to hit rock bottom before they start their recover. Liverpool fans will be hoping that the club's addiction to mediocrity over the past decade has hit it's lowest point.
Having lost with a tepid performance against Manchester United at home, and followed this up with an even less inspiring performance in the FA Cup, Liverpool fans were in need of a boost. Benitez who rested virtually his entire first XI for the Burnley trip made unsurprising wholesale changes to the starting line up. Despite the arrival of Scott Carson, the young keeper tipped for a big future, Dudek retained the goalkeeping jersey. With Finnan and Josemi both injured Carragher resumed at right back, leaving a huge gap in the centre of the defence. Carragher's form has been outstanding this season and we can only hope that his return to the heart of the defence comes sooner rather than later. Pellegrino lined up alongside Hyypia, with Warnock given a start at left back, replacing Traore who is probably still trying to work out what he was doing against Burnley.
In midfield, Gerrard was passed fit, a boost given the continued absence of Xabi Alonso. He was to line up in a four man midfield including Hamann, Riise and Garcia. Liverpool's best performances this season have generally come when Liverpool have played five across the middle of the park. With one less body in there, Liverpool currently look lightweight, it's an area of obvious concern. Morientes and Baros returned in attack looking to build some kind of partnership.
Liverpool started brightly, passing the ball well and pushing Southampton back. However after a couple of minutes of cruising, Liverpool were suddenly behind. A throw on the Liverpool left was taken quickly by Southampton, with Warnock caught the wrong side of his man. A ball was drilled in low and Hyypia blocked the ball, which landed at Pellegrino's feet. The big Argentinian delayed in clearing the ball and Prutton snapped in to rob possession. A quick one two with Crouch put Prutton in wide on the right and his shot beat Dudek on the near post. It was sloppy play all-round.
A shell shocked Liverpool looked out on their feet. Having started reasonably well, the Reds suddenly seemed unsure throughout the side. Southampton were playing in typical style for a Harry Redknapp side. Working hard, putting pressure on the opponents and looking to break quickly. Jamie Redknapp at the centre of Southampton's midfield was showing his outstanding range of passing.
A deserved second soon followed for the Saints. The ball was worked by Southampton from their left to right in front of the Liverpool back four. Pellegrino stepped forward to play the off-side trap, Hyypia and Carra held a deep line. Southampton were quick to exploit this, putting the ball in behind Pellegrino with the ball crossed in for Crouch to head home.
It was as bad a twenty minutes as Liverpool had put in under Benitez. Liverpool have been strong defensively in open play over the past few months, but in recent weeks, with Carragher taken out of the centre, teams have had more joy.
Liverpool unsurprisingly looked to hit back. Didi Hamann spotted the run of Baros down the right flank. The German's ball was overhit, but Baros worked hard to keep the ball in play, and pushed for the byline. Showing great composure the Czech international looked up whilst under pressure and drilled a cross to the edge of the box where he'd seen Gerrard make a run. Gerrard looked to control the ball on his chest and then struck a volley, but the ball flew over the bar.
Crouch was causing Liverpool real problems with his height. Hyypia was regularly beaten in the air and it was often good fortune that the flick ons didn't lead to something. At the other end, Liverpool's attacking play was lacking any great shape. Luis Garcia's alarming dip in form continues, the Spaniard clearly lacking any confidence. It is a vicious catch-22, with Garcia desperately needing those around him to help lift his mood, but the team relying on him for creativity.
Benitez brought on Sinama-Pongolle at half time, replacing Warnock who had not looked particularly assured at left back. The young Frenchman has a reputation of being an impact player, and he was one of the main threats in the second half. Milan Baros was also working hard to try and get Liverpool into the game. One strike from the edge of the box beat Niemi but went agonisingly wide of the keepers right hand post. Morientes is clearly not yet attuned to his team mates and failed to make any great impact on the game. He had one chance in the second half when a tackle on Baros saw the ball arrive at his feet, but his shot went harmlessly wide.
Southampton were defending as if their lives depended on it - their hard working, fighting approach standing out compared to Liverpool's standoffish panic-stricken showing at the other end. Liverpool couldn't even take advantage of some friendly officiating. A free kick was awarded on the edge of the Southampton box, the ref judging that the ball struck Redknapp's arm, though replays suggested it may have hit his chest. The ball was rolled to Gerrard who's strike clipped the top of the cross bar and went on into the stands. It summed up Liverpool's day.
And not for the first time since the turn of the year, Liverpool have to credit opponents for wanting the win more than them. The problems continue to mount for Benitez with Hyypia and Gerrard both picking up knocks. With the transfer window closing in a week, Liverpool fans will be hoping that the spending hasn't finished, as the squad is apparently thread bare. However the chances of that spending continuing appear to be slim, especially following this mornings news that the Kraft interest in Liverpool might now be over.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez: "If you concede two goals very soon it is never easy to get back. We conceded too soon and they tried to play the long ball. We needed to go forward more but it was difficult. It is always important when you lose to think about winning the next game."
"In the second half we had some chances but it is more difficult when you are losing and you know time is against you. It is always important if you lose to think about the next game. We will try to recover quickly."
Southampton manager Harry Redknapp: "We changed the system, we played one up (front) and five across the midfield. We decided we were going to run and join (the attack) and it worked a treat. We were excellent in midfield today, they worked their socks off. They showed bulldog spirit today. We've got players who are confident and not afraid to play under pressure."
Southampton goalscorer David Prutton: "We did really well today and defended right to the end and it's full credit to everyone that we won. The midfield was excellent, Jamie (Redknapp) played well, Rory (Delap) did well, having that extra man helps. A big thing has been made of the lack of confidence here but we really took it to Liverpool today and we have to do that every week if we're going to get out of trouble."
"If Bill Shankly was alive, he'd be turning in his grave."
Harry, a caller to the BBC's 606 phone-in programme, after Liverpool's Cup defeat by Burnley.
"It's 14 years since I left the club and that first-half performance was the worst I've seen since. It was devoid of quality, devoid of ideas, and worst of all, devoid of fight."
Anfield legend Alan Hansen talks straight on Match of the Day after the Reds follow up with a limp defeat to lowly Southampton.