Saints were narrowly beaten at Anfield as they fell to Daniel Agger’s first half header.
Nigel Adkins’ men may have lost their four game unbeaten run, but they went down fighting on Merseyside with their second half performance in particular unfortunate not yield an equaliser.
Liverpool had the better of a tough opening 45 minutes, where a resilient Saints had to be at their best to keep a busy home side at bay, with the movement of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling making life difficult for the visitors.
It was therefore little surprise when Agger popped up for a header shortly before the break, though the timing of the goal would have been hard to take on the back of a stubborn defensive display.
Although clear chances weren’t easy to come by, Saints pressed for an equaliser with Lambert going closest with a strike from distance, but a goal for the visitors never arrived as Adkins’ side failed to score for only the third time this season.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Enrique, Skrtel, Agger, Lucas (Carragher 88), Allen (Henderson 68), Gerrard, Shelvey, Sterling, Suarez. Subs (not used): Jones, Sahin, Downing, Suso, Wisdom.
Saints: Gazzaniga, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw, Cork (S. Davis 69), Schneiderlin, Puncheon (Rodriguez 77), Lallana, Ramirez, Lambert. Subs (not used): K. Davis, Hooiveld, Reeves, Ward-Prowse, Mayuka.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Attendance: 44, 525
Nigel Adkins named an unchanged starting eleven for the fifth consecutive game. The only change to the 18 man squad saw James Ward-Prowse replace Guly amongst the substitutes.
Danny Fox remained sidelined with a knee injury.
Hosts Liverpool got the match underway with Reds skipper Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez taking the game’s first touches.
Saints, wearing their all white strip were attacking the Kop end on a clear afternoon on Merseyside, and they were focused from the off with Rickie Lambert taking early aim from outside of the hosts’ area, but his low strike flew wide of Pepe Reina’s left post.
It was an open contest with both sides seeing plenty of the ball in the opening exchanges, though both defences stood up well to the initial threats from the forward lines, with Jose Fonte standing firm under Suarez’s first break towards goal.
Paulo Gazzaniga was tested for the first time on nine minutes when Fonte’s clearing header fell to Jonjo Shelvey, who struck a shot into the ground that bounced kindly for the Argentine.
The hosts ramped up their pressure when Glen Johnson flicked the ball wide at the near post, whilst Raheem Sterling had switched flanks to pose a new threat to Nathaniel Clyne.
Adkins' men looked a danger on the break with Lambert almost picking out Ramirez inside the box with a well weighted cross, but some acrobatics from Daniel Agger kept the visitors at bay as 20 minutes came up on the clock.
At the other end, Fonte was alert to put Johnson’s low cross behind for a corner, with the Portuguese also on hand to clear from Gerrard’s second bite of the cherry after the England midfielder’s initial strike was blocked inside the area.
On 22 Gerrard took aim again when he profited from a quickly taken free-kick that Suarez had helped on, but this time the strike was well wide.
Gazzaniga saved from Johnson and Shelvey in quick succession with a pair of good low stops as Saints continued to weather the storm, and the Argentine ‘keeper was on hand again to keep out Suarez, who had broken into the box impressively down the right.
A combination of Yoshida and Fonte denied Suarez from stealing in once more with Gazzaniga beaten, before Skrtel demonstrated his aerial threat from a series of set plays in front of the visiting support.
Ten minutes before the break, Lallana was brought down midway inside the Liverpool half, which presented Lambert with another chance to strike at goal. Again though, his fiercely struck effort went inches wide of the far post.
Almost immediately, the hosts broke down the other end where Shelvey hit the frame of the goal with a rising shot from an acute angle that had Gazzaniga beaten, but fortunately for Saints bounced harmlessly away.
A frustrated home side lost their way somewhat in the final third as they failed to get the better of the Saints backline, but after Suarez had clattered the crossbar from a free-kick, Liverpool finally got their noses in front in the 43rd minute when Daniel AGGER headed home Johnson’s cross from the right for a lead they had worked hard to achieve.
Saints searched for an instant reply, winning a corner on the left side, before Lambert nearly embarrassed Reina with a wicked strike from distance, but the visitors couldn’t quite snatch a leveller in the solitary minute added on for stoppages.
Half Time: Liverpool 1-0 Saints
Saints began the second 45 much stronger as they took the game back to their opponents, whose slender lead gave the visitors hope that they could still take something from the contest.
Puncheon cut in from the right to win a corner before Ramirez worked Reina with a well struck cross/shot from the same side.
There was further encouragement for Adkins’ men when another corner, this time won by Cork, was flicked on by Yoshida inside the box, but unfortunately the touch came to nothing.
The pressure from the visitors was starting to bring them back into the contest. A mis-placed pass in midfield saw Cork take advantage to pick out Ramirez on the edge of the box, but the Uruguayan’s shot was never troubling Reina.
Another well-constructed move from the back saw Cork and Schneiderlin bring the ball through midfield for Clyne to link up with in the final third, but despite a slip by Skrtel, the Slovakian defender recovered to deny Cork from completing the move inside the area.
On 64 Suarez won his side a corner which Schneiderlin headed away, but the Liverpool striker continued to be a handful, and linked up cleverly with Jose Enrique for what should have been the hosts’ second goal, only for Gazzaniga to turn the full back’s effort past the post.
Liverpool made their first substitution on 68 minutes when Joe Allen was replaced by Jordan Henderson. Saints followed suit a minute later when Cork made way for Steven Davis, with the contest still very much in the balance.
In the 73rd minute Skrtel headed wide from Shelvey’s corner, but it was Saints who remained the more ambitious moving forward. A charge led by Davis and Lallana was unfortunate not to bring a reward, particularly when Davis was fouled in an advanced position with no free-kick given.
On 77 Jay Rodriguez replaced Puncheon, with Saints still pushing for the equaliser that they craved, but they were almost punished for their commitment in attack when Gerrard managed to square the ball across the face of goal where the ball bounce doff the head of Suarez and narrowly over the bar.
Inside the final ten minutes of play, Saints adopted a more gung-ho approach with Rodriguez taking matters into his own hands with a surging run down the right which broke down, before an up and under from Fonte restored possession in their opponent’s half.
With assurance sought at the back, the hosts brought on Jamie Carragher in place of Lucas with two minutes left on the watch plus stoppage time still to play.
Carragher was booked for a challenge on Ramirez as three minutes went up for added on time, though the resulting set piece came to nothing.
It was a pulsating end to the game however, with Saints throwing caution to the wind late on, but Shaw’s wayward strike from the left proved to be the closest they would come to taking something from the contest.
Full Time: Liverpool 1-0 Saints