Liverpool 1 Southampton 0: Agger header has Reds looking up the table
17:11 GMT, 1 December 2012
Defender Daniel Agger's first goal of the season ensured Liverpool returned to winning ways at home to Southampton but they made hard work of the victory.
The Denmark international powered home a header just before half-time, only his fifth in 133 Premier League appearances, after a host of chances had gone begging.
In doing so he helped the Reds to only their third home win of the season and back-to-back league wins at Anfield for the first time since September 2011.
On target: Daniel Agger secured a vital victory for Liverpool
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Lucas, Allen (Henderson 69), Shelvey, Gerrard, Sterling, Suarez. Subs not used: Jones, Sahin, Downing, Carragher, Fernandez Saez, Wisdom.
Goal: Agger 43.
Southampton: Gazzaniga, Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Shaw, Puncheon (Rodriguez 78), Cork (Steven Davis 70), Schneiderlin, Lallana, Ramirez, Lambert. Subs not used: Kelvin Davis, Hooiveld, Ward-Prowse, Mayuka, Reeves.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
The latest Premier League table, fixtures and results
But in truth it should have been far
more comfortable than it actually was, which is a familiar story where
Liverpool have been concerned recently.
They had 14 shots in a totally
one-sided first half although Southampton could easily have had a goal
of their own with Rickie Lambert's long-range shooting threatening to
catch out Jose Reina.
The Southampton striker sent an early
swerving effort just wide before, in added time, his 35-yard drive had
Reina scrambling back to turn ball around the post.
But those two chances book-ended what was a procession of missed opportunities for the dominant hosts.
The restoration of Lucas Leiva to the
side as defensive midfield linchpin after a three-month absence with a
thigh injury transformed the dynamic almost immediately.
With both Steven Gerrard and Joe
Allen freed to play higher up the pitch in a 4-1-4-1 formation most of
the action was concentrated in their final third.
Winning moment: Daniel Agger rises highest to meet Glen Johnson's cross to spark celebration from the Liverpool players (below)
Mixed emotions: Southampton and Liverpool react after Agger's goal
Jonjo Shelvey, also back in the side,
bobbled straight at goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, Glen Johnson flicked
Luis Suarez's pass across the face of goal, Steven Gerrard had a shot
charged down and then fired wide after a quickly-taken free-kick to
Gazzaniga denied both Shelvey and
Suarez, who made justifiable claims he had been pulled back by Jack
Cork, before the Uruguay international latched onto Reina's long kick
and beat the goalkeeper only for Maya Yoshida to clear the ball for a
When Shelvey smashed an angled shot
past the goalkeeper but back off the inside of the far post it appeared
luck was not on their side.
A marked man: Jason Puncheon gputs pressure on Raheem Sterling
However, it took a double-dose of Uruguayan intervention to eventually help break the deadlock two minutes before the break.
Saints' South American summer signing
Gaston Ramirez flattened international team-mate Suarez on the edge of
the penalty area and although the Reds striker crashed his free-kick
onto the crossbar it rebounded to Johnson.
His cross into the penalty area was met by Agger who planted a header into the top corner from 10 yards.
Acrobatics: Daniel Agger clears from Gaston Ramirez
Southampton, having undertaken damage
limitation in the first half, came out positively after the break and
Liverpool struggled to reassert their dominance.
After the first-half deluge it took until midway through the second period to carve out a good opportunity.
Jose Enrique, marauding from
left-back having been restored to his preferred position, exchanged
passes with Suarez on the edge of the area but his toe-poke at goal was
deflected wide by Luke Shaw.
Combative: Luis Suarez eases away from Maya Yoshida (above) as Lucas tackles Gaston Ramirez (below)
The Spaniard also saw his drilled half-volley from the left of the area batted away by Gazzaniga.
Such was Liverpool's desperation to score the second and give themselves
some breathing space Suarez tried to punch in Gerrard's cross.
It proved costly as his subsequent
booking ruled the side's leading scorer out of next Sunday's trip to
West Ham, who beat third-placed Chelsea earlier in the day.
Close attention: Jose Enrique fends off Gaston Ramirez
Suarez flashed a left-footed shot
just wide in added time but in the end Agger's goal proved just enough
to ensure they crept closer to the top four, which manager Brendan
Rodgers insists remains a possibility.
It will only do so, however, if they
first find more support for Suarez in the January transfer window and
start converting more of their chances.