Brendan Rodgers heeds wake-up call as Southampton shine brightly

Brendan Rodgers will need to visit the stationery cupboard.

In scenes from a now infamous fly-on-the-wall documentary, the Liverpool manager brandished three envelopes which he claimed held the names of the trio of players who were going to let down his team this season. After this abject performance against Southampton, he'll need several more. Brad Jones, in for the injured Pepe Reina, Luis Suárez and Lucas Leiva, a half-time replacement for Joe Allen, were the only players not to make a holy show of themselves at the end of a week in which a new pope was elected and the Saints took a massive step towards securing their place in the Premier League canon.

Rodgers seemed surprisingly unperturbed, putting the defeat down to a communal bad day at the office. But he admitted the result was a wake-up call. "It's a reminder more to me than anyone," he said. "This is a group, when we lose, we lose together. We're very much a group and the spirit's strong. It's just one of those days when the team wasn't quite right and that's just one of those things we'll live with and put right before the next game."

Much credit is due to Southampton, who were as excellent as Liverpool were abject and should realistically have been six or seven up by half time. Morgan Schneiderlin opened the scoring after six minutes, deftly flicking home from seven yards after Jay Rodriguez had nodded down a floated cross from Gastón Ramírez. Saints doubled their lead through Liverpool fan Rickie Lambert, whose free-kick from 25 yards deflected home off the backside turned its way by Daniel Sturridge. Liverpool grabbed an unlikely lifeline in first-half injury time through Philippe Coutinho, who stabbed home after Sturridge's attempt to atone for his cowardice had been blocked. It was the 18th goal Southampton have conceded between the half-hour mark and interval this season and their manager, Mauricio Pochettino, was furious.

"I was really angry when I went into the dressing room at half time," he said through his interpreter, the likeable Argentinian still not confident enough in his English to address the press pack directly. "It changed what I said to my players. We are an attack-minded team and always want to push forward and it's not such a big deal if we concede a goal when we are pressing really high to get a goal for ourselves as well. But to concede a goal when there are 10 of my players in my own area, in my own box, and concede a goal like that, I can never tolerate that." Asked if this was the first time he had been so angry with his players, he smiled and admitted "there have been other occasions".

In the face of a much improved second-half performance from Liverpool during which the Southampton goalkeeper, Artur Boruc, rescued his side on a number of occasions, the outstanding Jay Rodriguez put the result beyond doubt in the 80th minute. Picking up the ball on the halfway line, he ran directly at and straight through a back-pedalling Liverpool defence before firing low and straight at Jones, then slotting home the follow-up. A record crowd of 32,070 Saints fans were in heaven.

Man of the match Jay Rodriguez (Southampton)

Powered by article was written by Barry Glendenning at St Mary's Stadium, for The Guardian on Sunday 17th March 2013 22.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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