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Anfield hero Dejan Lovren could be one of the signings of the summer
You didn't need the goal to know it, but Saints defender Dejan Lovren’s strike at Anfield provided further evidence to suggest he could be one of the shrewdest acquisitions of the summer in the Premier League.
The centre half perhaps didn't arrive with the fanfare that greeted the captures of fellow new arrivals Victor Wanyama and Dani Osvaldo at St Mary's, but he may be every bit as important as those two to the club’s future plans.
The £8.5m paid to Lyon for his services certainly looks like money well spent and an investment that Saints will be rightly pleased with.
Lovren’s header against Liverpool was a deserved reward for what has been an eye-catching and impressive start to the campaign for the 24-year-old.
He has already forged an extremely encouraging partnership with José Fonte at the heart of the Saints defence, which is showing promising early signs that it could be the best combination since the days of Michael Svensson and Claus Lundekvam – who happened to be the centre back pairing when Saints last won here, in December 2003.
Lovren’s goal, the first of his Saints career, was the obvious highlight, as he outmuscled Daniel Agger – no mean feat in itself – before planting an off-balance header past Simon Mignolet from Adam Lallana’s corner.
While that provided a memory he will likely treasure forever, his all-round performance was perhaps just as crucial.
Alongside Fonte and the rest of the backline, Lovren kept out a Liverpool attack spearheaded by the vibrant and in-form Daniel Sturridge.
Luis Suárez and Philippe Coutinho might both have been absent, but this was nonetheless the sternest test of the season so far for the Saints defence, and they passed with flying colours.
On the occasions when Liverpool did break through the back four, their advances were brilliantly repelled by goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
“What we need to do is stop making heroes out of all the goalkeepers that come and visit us,” the Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino said earlier this week, after a string of fine displays from opposition stoppers this term.
In the shape of Polish international Boruc today, he found a hero in his own net.
After the 33-year-old’s declaration again this week that Saints could challenge for a Champions League place this season, it would have been unfortunate timing for the keeper to throw in a poor display.
But Boruc backed his words up in this instance, helping his team overcome the early league leaders and a potential top-four challenger – not that many will necessarily be jumping quite yet to support his statement.
While Boruc was again excellent, this was a day that belonged most of all to Lovren.
A classy and elegant defender, he showcased his range of abilities in front of the Anfield crowd.
His sublime chest control as a ball dropped high out of the sky towards the end of the first half told of a confident and skilled footballer.
His perfectly timed sliding tackle on Sturridge, as the Liverpool forward threatened to break through in the 73rd minute was evidence of his defensive abilities.
And his goal, the best moment of them all, revealed a player who could come to pose a significant threat in opposition penalty areas for some time to come.
This was not just a famous day for Saints, it was also one for Lovren.
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