Liverpool 2-1 Southampton
- Liverpool's first game since Suarez left
- Koeman's Southampton reign starts with defeat
- Manquillo, Lovren & Lambert handed Reds debuts
Liverpool made an unconvincing start to life without Luis Suarez - but goals from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge edged them past a Southampton side who shone despite their summer upheaval.
Although the £75m sale of Suarez to Barcelona stripped the Reds of one of the game's most prolific strikers, Sterling and Sturridge struck either side of a Nathaniel Clyne equaliser to compensate on this occasion.
But Liverpool were left hanging on for the win and will have to improve significantly if they are to repeat or improve on their second-place finish last season.
A new-look Southampton, under new manager Ronald Koeman, were the more dangerous team for long periods and might have claimed a deserved point when Morgan Schneiderlin fired against the bar late on.
Following a turbulent few months in which the south coast club lost their manager and a host of key players, this display suggests reports of their demise could be premature.
The irony of the fixture was that three of those players - Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren - moved to Anfield as part of a post-Suarez rebuilding job that has seen Liverpool spend more than £100m, with the transfer window still open for another two weeks.
Lovren was the only member of that trio to start against his former employers as Lambert took a place on the bench and Lallana missed out with a knee injury - and the Croat made an instant impression.
While much focus has been placed on how Liverpool will cope without Suarez, who scored 31 league goals in 2013-14, only Manchester City (102) and Chelsea (71) managed more than their 70 when the Uruguayan's strikes are subtracted.
Perhaps of more pressing concern, therefore, was the 50 goals they conceded; 13 more than City and 23 more than Chelsea. Lovren's display suggested he may well provide the solution.
He was towering alongside Martin Skrtel at centre-back as Southampton threatened in the early stages, providing a solid platform from which his team were able to build.
|Dusan Tadic has provided three assists in his last three league games (two for FC Twente, one for Southampton).|
On top of Lambert, Lallana and Lovren, Saints also saw Luke Shaw depart for Manchester United, Calum Chambers for Arsenal and boss Mauricio Pochettino for Tottenham.
But the exits generated almost £100m and about half of that has been reinvested to give Koeman a chance of continuing his predecessor's encouraging work.
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster, left-back Ryan Bertrand, playmaker Dusan Tadic and striker Graziano Pelle all slotted in fairly seamlessly for Saints, while Schneiderlin excelled despite his well-documented desire to leave for Tottenham.
The visitors had played the more fluent football before Henderson robbed Tadic of possession, beat Schneiderlin and sent Sterling clean through with a magnificent curling pass that split the opposition centre-backs. Sterling kept calm to slot past Forster.
Southampton could easily have fallen apart, but they responded positively as James Ward-Prowse and Schneiderlin both forced Simon Mignolet to tip efforts from distance over the bar.
The pattern of play continued after half-time and Koeman's men were rewarded when right-back Clyne found Tadic on the edge of the box, continued his run untracked and collected a sublime back-heel to lash high past Mignolet.
|Former England striker Gary Lineker|
|"They may have lost, but if I were a Saints fan I'd be hugely encouraged by that performance. Despite a summer of madness, they'll be fine."|
Steven Davis wasted a glorious chance to put the visitors ahead and their pressure mounted, drawing groans of frustration from the home supporters.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers introduced former Saint Lambert to add some physical presence to the Liverpool attack, while Koeman turned to £12m acquisition Shane Long.
Southampton seemed the more likely scorers but lacked a cutting edge up front and were punished when they failed to clear a cross and Sterling found Sturridge to touch home the winner.
There was still time for Mignolet to touch Schneiderlin's drive onto the woodwork, Long heading the rebound wide, but Liverpool dug in to open their Premier League bid with three points.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman:
"I think we played a great second half, after 1-1 I think there was one team on the pitch playing and it was Southampton.
"We had a chance to score the second one, two great opportunities but the quality of Liverpool, they don't need many opportunities to score and that makes the difference.
"The way we played I think brings us a lot of confidence."
- 19ManquilloBooked at 34mins
- 21LucasSubstituted forAllenat 63'minutes
- 10CoutinhoSubstituted forLambertat 76'minutes
- 4K Touré
- 8DavisBooked at 78minsSubstituted forIsgroveat 82'minutes
- 4SchneiderlinBooked at 65mins
- 11TadicSubstituted forLongat 74'minutes
- Mark Clattenburg
- Shots on Target