Brendan Rodgers highlighted both the character within his team and the crucial importance of having options to change his system following Liverpool's close-fought 2-1 win over Southampton.

The Reds moved ahead in the first half at Anfield through a sublime Raheem Sterling strike that was created by the force of will and ingenious passing of midfielder Jordan Henderson.

Back came an indefatigable Saints side, though, and the travellers were level shortly into the second period when Nathaniel Clyne fired home from Dusan Tadic's perfect back-flick.

[LFC_VIDEO_PLAYER_0]

It was then that the spirit Rodgers later pointed to was particularly in evidence, as the hosts refused to be denied and ultimately summoned a vital settler courtesy of Daniel Sturridge.

"We had to grind out a result and today was a brilliant win for us," said the boss. "It was a tough game, the first game back into the new season.

"I'm really happy with that determination and character to win a football match. As the season rolls on, we'll get better and more fluent. It was very hard-fought.

"They are a good side, they have got some very good players and an experienced manager that has come in and got them organised. It was always going to be a difficult game.

"To get the three points was vital. The supporters were brilliant for us today, as they have been in my time here. We showed guts and determination. Thankfully, we could change the game.

"We got to 1-1 and I could look to the bench and change the way we worked. We flipped to a diamond and put Rickie on and I think he unsettled them a bit.

"They know his qualities; we started to cross the ball into the box and that led to our second goal. Raheem won a great header and Daniel put a lovely touch on the ball to get the winner. I thought it was a great win."

Sturridge was the match-winner 12 months ago when Stoke City visited L4 on the opening weekend, and once more it was the No.15's contribution that tipped the tie in Liverpool's favour.

His close-range finish from Sterling's headed assist proved enough for all three points, prompting praise from Rodgers for the method in which the Englishman found a breakthrough.

The Northern Irishman commented: "For Dan, it was just a continuation. That's 36 goals in 50 appearances, which is the best of any striker in Liverpool's [modern] history in 50 games.

"Sometimes Dan will have quiet games but he'll always look like he'll score a goal. I was pleased with that type of goal because it's a poacher's goal in the box, where you anticipate the knockdown and he guided it beautifully into the corner.

"Raheem's was a great goal; a great pass, speed in the transition, touch and the finish. It was a pleasing result for us."

In a quirk of circumstances, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet proved pivotal in the closing moments against Southampton, just as he did when Stoke were the opponents last season.

The Belgian's reflexes were outstanding to tip Morgan Schneiderlin's piledriver onto the crossbar and out, preserving an opening day triumph for the Reds as he did in 2013.

"It was a great touch," reflected the boss. "He also made a good save - Steven Davis will be disappointed with the one that he had inside the box.

"He didn't have too many things to do, but his hands were great. Simon is a great handler of the ball. It was a great reaction to tip it onto the bar.

"There were a few hairy moments at the end, but that's what makes the win even better when you get a victory like that."

Also on Rodgers' radar for praise were summer recruits Dejan Lovren and Javier Manquillo, who each made their competitive debut for the club today.

With fellow signings Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic nearing fitness and Alberto Moreno's transfer from Sevilla now completed, Rodgers signed off in positive humour.

He added: "Lovren was excellent. It's always difficult when you play against your old team. He dealt with it really well. He's a real leader for us in organisation and I thought he was excellent.

"Young Manquillo did well considering he picked up a booking early on. He has come into a different way of working and, at 20 years of age, he was very good.

"We've got young Moreno coming in as well - he's a big talent. Markovic is now available, which is great, and Adam Lallana won't be too far away in the next few weeks. The squad is shaping up very well."