Liverpool unbeaten run checked

LONDON - The wheels came off Liverpool's bright start as Southampton won 1-0 at Anfield to inflict a first defeat of the season on the Premier League leaders on Saturday.

Luis Suárez will be back this week and suddenly Liverpool look like a team that need him. The suspended striker was present at this game, watching with a thoughtful expression as Southampton unexpectedly ruined Liverpool's attempt to make their best ever Premier League start to leave Roberto Martínez's Everton as the top flight's only unbeaten side.

It was not supposed to work out this way, though while unexpected, Southampton's victory was certainly not undeserved.

This visitors were the stronger, more inventive side throughout, and but for some goalkeeping heroics from Simon Mignolet could have won even more convincingly.

Mignolet's shot-stopping has been a significant part of Liverpool's rise to the top of the table, which was perhaps an indication that one day the club's luck would run out.

This was that day. Brendan Rodgers tried everything, including a few things he will probably not be trying again, but nothing worked.

Even presented with a more than passable opportunity to snatch a point at the death, when Daniel Sturridge played a pass over the Southampton defence to allow Raheem Sterling to run clear on goal, the substitute came up with a wretched first touch to practically pass the ball to Artur Boruc.

This will all have looked familiar to Suárez. Liverpool can only hope his one-man rescue act is still functioning as well as it has in previous seasons.

An undistinguished first half was enlivened only by a terrific save from Boruc, arching to his right to get one hand to a Steven Gerrard free-kick that was heading for the top corner.

Dejan Lovren was lucky to get away with a challenge on Sturridge that looked like a penalty and Boruc saved again from the elusive Victor Moses, but in terms of goalmouth action that was it for the first 45 minutes.

Southampton, with Adam Lallana impressive down the right, were not afraid to come forward and threaten, though their attacks tended to founder on the rocks of Liverpool's uncompromising back row of four centre-halves.

Rickie Lambert might be having a good season but, really, he's not that much of a handful. Kolo Touré was playing right-back in the absence of the injured Glen Johnson, and Mamadou Sakho found himself pressed into service at left-back despite his insistence on joining from PSG that he preferred not to play in that position.

José Enrique was available but relegated to the bench, Rodgers evidently believing that a £16m has to be accommodated somewhere.

Touré managed to get up in support of the attack, as is his wont, whereas Sakho stayed back and deprived Liverpool of an outlet on the left. – Agencies

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