The visitors almost snatched a point at the death, but Simon Mignolet expertly tipped Morgan Schneiderlin’s fierce effort on to the crossbar while substitute Shane Long headed the rebound wide with the goal agape.
After a cagey opening, Raheem Sterling edged the hosts ahead on 23 minutes when he latched onto Jordan Henderson’s swerving through ball and slotted home, but the visitors grew into the contest as the first-half wore on and went close with a series of menacing set-pieces.
And Southampton drew level after the restart when Nathaniel Clyne thundered a shot into the roof of the net before blowing a huge chance to take the lead when Steven Davis shot straight at Mignolet from close range.
Sturridge punished that miss when he diverted Sterling’s header into the bottom corner and Liverpool survived a late onslaught to pick up maximum points.
Sturridge goal against Southampton
PRE-MATCH – Brendan Rodgers picks Lovren in XI . Dejan Lovren slots into the Liverpool defence to face his former club, but ex-Saints Rickie Lambert (benched) and Adam Lallana (injured) miss out on starting XI duties.
23’ - GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Southampton. Henderson raises his chin, spots Sterling in acres of space on the inside-left channel and plays a beautiful, sweeping pass out to the youngster. Sterling bears down on goal before coolly slotting into the bottom corner. The hosts lead!
56’ – GOAL! Liverpool 1-1 Southampton. Tadic flicks a sublime backheel into the path of Clyne who crashes the ball into the roof of the net from inside the penalty area.
62’ – WHAT A CHANCE! Southampton break down the left. It finds its way to Ward-Prowse inside the penalty area, who flicks it towards Davis. He must score... No - he's bottled it! Straight at Mignolet.
68’ – DESPERATE! The Liverpool defence collapses as Clyne tiptoes into the hosts' penalty area. It breaks to Ward-Prowse who elects to pass when he probably should have hit it.
77’ – LAMBERT ARRIVAL! Rickie Lambert fulfils a childhood dream by coming on for Liverpool. Coutinho makes way.
79’ – GOAL! Liverpool 2-1 Southampton. Henderson’s cross flicks off an opponent and into the air. Sterling nods it in the direction of Sturridge who gets the faintest of touches to divert it beyond Forster. Relief at Anfield!
87’ – BIG, BIG CHANCE! Schneiderlin thunders a shot at goal which Mignolet does superbly to tip onto the bar. The ball crashes down and into the line. Did it go in? It doesn't matter because Long will surely head home the rebound... No! He's put it wide.
Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring for Liverpool against Southampton (AFP)
Liverpool’s last ten PL opening weekend wins have all been by a one-goal margin – since their 6-1 victory over Crystal Palace on August 20th 1994.
Southampton have won just one of their last eight Premier League opening fixtures (four defeats, three draws) – their 1-0 success at West Brom last season.
The only previous time these sides met on the opening day of a top-flight season the scoreline was also 2-1 – with Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Southampton on August 16th 1998.
Daniel Sturridge is now the leading Premier League goalscorer in the calendar year of 2014 (13 goals)
Stats couteresy of Infostrada
Can Liverpool keep their place in the top four? It was a shaky performance but, crucially, they defeated a Southampton side that beat them at Anfield last season. Ultimately, their league success will hinge on how they handle their European outings.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool): The liveliest outlet for Liverpool marked an impressive performance with a goal and an assist.
Liverpool: Mignolet 6, Manquillo 6, Johnson 6, Skrtel 6, Lovren 6, Gerrard 6, Lucas 5, Henderson 7, Coutinho 6, Sterling 7, Sturridge 6. Subs: Allen 6, Lambert 6.
Southampton: Forster 6, Clyne 7, Fonte 6, Yoshida 5, Bertrand 6, Wanyama 6, Schneiderlin 6, S. Davis 6, Ward-Prowse 7, Tadic 6, Pelle 6. Subs: Long 5, Isgrove 6.
MATCH IN A TWEET
- Sports & Recreation
- Daniel Sturridge
- Raheem Sterling
- Simon Mignolet
- Rickie Lambert