By James Mackney @JimMackney
Going into yesterday’s opening clash I thoroughly expected to get hit for a cricket score despite Liverpool being a Suarez down. In actuality this was far from the truth and Saints gave a thoroughly good account of themselves with a high pressing and near-polished performance.
The front line of Tadić, Pellé and Ward-Prowse are in an embryonic state but there were flashes of link up play that suggest that it will not take long for them to find each other’s wavelength.
Tadić in particular was great. He always looked to move the ball forward and was very comfortable in possession. He unlocked the Liverpool defence with a perfectly timed back heel to Nathaniel Clyne who duly smashed the ball into the back of the net to draw the Saints level. The move was highly unflattering from a Liverpool standpoint with Lucas and Johnson having no idea what was happening right in front of them and Lovren was left with a particularly red face – an added bonus.
Ward-Prowse’s inclusion was fully justified as his growth over the last two seasons has been rapid. His dead ball delivery was exemplary as ever but he was also industrious in maintaining the ball and keeping attacks alive. A few errant passes aside, he should be the first name on the team sheet against WBA (along with Wanyama).
Pellé held the ball up well and won enough in the air throughout the game. He did seem slightly slow off the mark when balls were played through to him however but this Premier League match sharpness will come with time. A seemingly good acquisition so far.
A special mention should be given to Ronald Koeman that after all the upheaval of pre-season the performance he mustered from his players yesterday was great. In no small part in giving Morgan Schneiderlin a full 90mins after a World Cup campaign and no pre-season could’ve seemed reckless but Koeman has evidently worked well with Morgan over the past week. Although he was very good today he was performing below his optimum standards which frankly proves how good he is.
And yet Saints came away empty handed due to a huge amount of space given to Raheem Sterling by Clyne and Steven Davis failing to react to a clearing opportunity – a very rare moment but one on which the points were won and lost.
Schneiderlin saw his rocket of a shot somehow saved by Mingolet and Shane Long put wide on the rebound. Aside from this, Long provided an industrious attitude and was very comfortable on the ball. Still, no excuses for that miss.
If Saints continue to play with the same energy and belief they will be absolutely fine this season, which will make this fan very happy indeed.