Not exactly free flowing and exciting but it did give the Reds three points and that's what is most important. I had a few fears through this one of a repeat of the Portsmouth game but the Reds were able to hang on and collect maximum points which on the balance of the whole game they deserved.
The two sides out at Anfield and after the usual line up on the main stand side the referee called the captains together. After the toss he clearly signaled for both sides to switch ends. Neither side took any notice though and stood round the centre circle for a minute's silence. The silence for the victims in the Tsunami disaster was brought home at the time when estimates of the deaths exceeded numbers in Anfield.
Southampton got the game underway attacking the Kop end in the first half. The Reds started out at reasonable pace to hit Southampton early. The visitor's looked happy from the first minute for a 0-0 draw though which made this game particularly hard. Both Riise and Alonso had early shots to test Niemi in the Southampton goal but no luck.
Prutton got himself a booking just ten minutes into the game when he went in late on Garcia who was clearing a ball from just outside his own area. It was possibly a little harsh and after treatment Garcia returned to the action. Straight away the Reds should have scored but Pongolle wasted a good chance. He broke down the inside right channel but with Mellor in the middle Pongolle shot a little wildly into the side netting.
Neil McCann became the next player in the book when he went in with his studs showing against Finnan. The ref missed it but the lino certainly didn't and ensured McCann went in the book. Finnan though stayed down an as Dave Galley treated him the signal went across to the bench for a switch. Finnan eventually hobbled off and the Reds played with ten men for a couple of minutes.
Salif Diao eventually arrived as Finnan's replacement and went straight in at right back. And oh how so many feared that move! The Saints had come with a very specific game plan which was to get amongst the Reds in midfield and upset our rhythm. Riise nearly created the perfect ball for Mellor eight minutes before half time but his ball just fell awkwardly and Mellor could only shoot over the bar.
The only goal of the game came just a minute before the half time interval and it was a great finish from Pongolle to secure it. Alonso robbed the ball in midfield and then split the defence open with a great through ball which Pongolle raced on to and slotted home past Niemi. The game all of a sudden was so different.
The half time team talks were all switched with goal at half time. Southampton suddenly had to try and score a goal. However they look a poor side with little confidence and never really looked likely too. Their biggest threat was Rory Delap and his long fast throw ins. The first one was the one that caused most problems as Dudek made a complete hash of it but thankfully saw the ball cleared off the line. Dudek as any keeper does blamed his defence for his short coming.
Chances for the Reds were at a premium to be honest as the majority of the game was played out in the middle of the pitch. Southampton made a change for the final twenty five minutes as Kevin Phillips arrived for Blackstock. Phillips looked lively throughout and the one man who might rescue a point for the visitors.
The Reds brought Antonio Nunez on for the final twenty or so minutes for Neil Mellor who had a quiet game. The move saw Garcia go up front with Nunez on the right side of midfield. With just twelve minutes remaining on the clock the Reds went oh so close to a second when Riise was superbly spotted by Gerrard. Riise blasted a great shot but just too high and it cannoned out off the crossbar.
Two minutes later and a superb cross from Nunez found Garcia whose header looked destined for the back of the net but for a full stretch save from Niemi who claimed the ball at the second attempt off the post. It was now looking like the Reds were more likely to score a second than concede an equaliser.
The Reds though were never fully safe and were struggling to just put the foot on the ball and pass it through Southampton. Hamann arrived for the final three minutes into midfield to ensure the ball was brought down and passed about as Gerrard pushed forward.
The Reds had two opportunities in the final added minutes of the game. First Riise went through and in a fifty fifty he went down after Niemi came out to challenge for the ball. He claimed a penalty but nothing came from referee Mark Halsey. Just after that and Gerrard went booming through and seemed to get to every single ball first but couldn't quite get that opening for a goal. The ref blew the whistle and the three points were secured.
All in all we will certainly see better games this season but at the end of the day nothing is more important than the three points and that ensures we have taken all six points over Christmas and end the year with the first three game league winning run of the season.
MotM : Steven Gerrard -typical Gerrard game in which he bounded forwards and made some great tackles as well. If his energy and desire to win can be matched we will continue to move forward and make more of an impression on the top teams.