After The Match 


Liverpool-Southampton 1-0 (1-0)         Tue Dec 28.         Premier League
Goals: Pongolle (44)
Team: Dudek, Finnan, Riise, Hyypia, Carragher, Gerrard, Alonso, Warnock, Garcia, Mellor, Pongolle
Subs: Diao (Finnan 29), Nunez (Mellor 68), Hamann (Garcia 87)
Not used: Harrison, Traore
Yellow: Prutton (10), McCann (25), Jakobsson (29)
Red: None
Referee: M Halsey
Attendance: 42,382

                                              MATCH-REPORTS & RESULTS 
Shots on target: 11-2
Shots off target: 8-1
Fouls conceded: 6-12
Corners: 7-3
Yellow: 0-3





"They made it
hard for us..."

Steven Gerrard

2812: Rafa: It was hard work
2812: Reds scrape win over Saints

Rafa: It was hard work

By Paul Higham - Planet Football/Sky Sports

Rafa Benitez admitted Liverpool's 1-0 win over Southampton was hard work.

The Reds dominated most of the match but it could not add to Florent Sinama-Pongolle's strike just before half time.

Liverpool's defending become more erratic in the second period as nerves set in, and Benitez admitted that his side need more confidence to kill teams off.

However, with so many games over Christmas the Spaniard was happy to have recorded two wins out of two.

"It was hard work," said Benitez. "We controlled the game in the first half but in the second half it was difficult.

"In the end it was important to win three games in a row.

"We had some chances at the end of the game and the goalkeeper made some good saves, perhaps we need more confidence when we are up 1-0 ahead."

Steven Gerrard was again in great form, and the Liverpool skipper said the result as all important.

"It was a battle," added Gerrard. "Credit to Southampton because they made it hard for us.

"Sometimes it's not about playing well but about getting the points and the boys battled well today and I think they deserved it.

"They made it hard for us and had a lot of men behind the ball but we knew the breakthrough would come if we kept passing the ball. We had to match them in the middle of the park and we did that.

"Our performances at home have been really good and if we take that into our away games then things are looking good."

Reds scrape win over Saints

Sporting Life

Liverpool made it three wins on the trot in the end thanks to Florent Sinama-Pongolle's first-half cracker.

But this was nothing like the sort of Liverpool performance that will have Chelsea worried when they arrive at Anfield on Saturday.

Southampton were without soon-to-be sold James Beattie and left still without an away win this season or a victory under new boss Harry Redknapp.

But they made life more than difficult for Liverpool and could easily have snatched something in a second half that was painful to watch for the Kop faithful.

In the midst of all this anxiety and error, Steven Gerrard stood out as the class act he has become at Liverpool.

He chased, tackled, harrassed and battled for the cause in an inspirational man-of the match performance.

Reds boss Rafael Benitez will be relieved to have bagged three points from a horrible performance. Michael Owen was back home watching from the stands and how his level of finishing was missing from this display.

Liverpool brought in Luis Garcia, Xabi Alonso, Neil Mellor and Stephen Warnock as Benitez rang the changes after the 5-0 hammering of West Brom.

The game was also without each club's top striker with Milan Baros rested ahead of Chelsea's visit and Saints opting to leave out Beattie altogether.

The former England striker, confirmed boss Harry Redknapp before the game, had been the subject of two bids with the transfer window about to open and he has clearly played his last match for the Hampshire side.

Saints set out to smother the life out of the game with deep defence. John Arne Riise lashed in a low drive that Antti Niemi saved while Sinama-Pongolle, Alonso and Luis Garcia all wasted half chances.

Southampton, who also made four changes from the side that drew goalless at home to Charlton on Sunday, has just Dexter Blackstock up front and gifted Liverpool acres of space, but the link play between Alonso and the front men was off key. Luis Garcia, too, was more intent on ambitious shooting than feeding better placed colleagues.

David Prutton, booked for a foul on Luis Garcia, and Rory Delap were doing a sound job against Gerrard and Alonso and an air of frustration swept around Anfield as their heroes were unable to carve out decent opportunities.

Liverpool lost Steve Finnan with a leg injury after a foul by Neil McCann, to be replaced by Salif Diao while Andreas Jakobsson also found himself booked for a foul on Sinama-Pongolle.

Liverpool spluttered along while the Saints were more than happy to hound them into mistakes. And there were alarm bells when Prutton battled his way to the edge of the box before unleashing a low drive that flashed past Jerzy Dudek's left hand post.

Everything about Liverpool needed to be quicker and with greater imagination as they continued to get caught in possession.

And a minute from the break Liverpool did increase their tempo and accuracy to go one up. Alonso snapped up possession from Blackstock in central midfield and instantly played an outstanding pass in behind Martin Cranie. Sinama-Pongolle latched on to it before rifling a low drive into the far bottom corner.

The second period saw anxiety take over in the Liverpool ranks. Dudek did not help by flapping badly at a Delap long throw, and then Sinama-Pongolle wasted two chances that would have calmed his side's collective nerves.

But Southampton brought on attacking experience in Anders Svensson and Kevin Phillips and Liverpool looked even more uncertain.

Gerrard's tireless energy and industry keeps Liverpool going in situations like this.

A cracking pass from the England midfielder set up Riise for a fierce drive that crashed against the bar.

Niemi made a flying save from a Luis Garcia header following a Nunez cross, but Southampton became increasingly confident that they could get something from the game, largely from Delap's dangerous long throws.

Liverpool demanded a penalty in injury time when Niemi sent Riise spinning into the air but referee Mark Halsey turned them down before sounding the final whistle which brought welcome relief for Anfield.

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Thor Zakariassen