Post by Football News on Nov 19, 2016 17:10:25 GMT
Southampton 0-0 Liverpool
Liverpool continue to enjoy the view from the top of the Premier League, but everything would have looked so much better for Jürgen Klopp and his players if they had shown the same ruthless touch in front of goal that had carried them to the summit. Instead they will leave the south coast ruing the missed opportunities that allowed Southampton to escape with a point from a game that Liverpool controlled.
Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Saido Mané, that exhilarating attacking trident, were not quite able to deliver when it mattered and there was no escaping the frustration on Klopp’s face as each chance went begging. Southampton defended resolutely at times and Fraser Forster made a couple of excellent saves, in particular in the first half when he denied Mané a goal on his return to St Mary’s, yet Liverpool will still feel that they should have taken one of their numerous openings.
Nathaniel Clyne, one of five players to swap Southampton for Liverpool in recent times, had a wonderful chance to win the game for Liverpool nine minutes from time, when he arrived at the far post to meet Daniel Sturridge’s deep cross, but the England international headed agonisingly wide in a moment that summed up the day for the visitors.
The game had been something of a slowburner. Liverpool dominated possession early on and there were long, controlled passages of play when it felt as though the visitors had an extra man on the pitch. Yet Liverpool were not hurting Southampton initially, at least not until just before the half-hour mark, when Klopp’s team registered their first attempt on goal and came so close to taking the lead.
Coutinho, who was declared fit despite reporting back from international duty with a tight hamstring, picked out Clyne in space on the right with a fine diagonal pass. Clyne’s low centre was only half cleared to the edge of the area, where Georginio Wijnaldum seized on the loose ball and released Mané. Striking the ball first time with power and precision, Mané could not have connected any sweeter with a shot that was arcing towards the top corner, but Forster, stretching every sinew, expertly flicked the ball over the bar with his fingertips.
The same two Liverpool players combined again later in the half, when Mané tore into the penalty area and bore down on the Southampton goal. A breakthrough beckoned but just as he pulled the trigger, Virgil van Dijk slid across to make a superbly timed block that diverted the forward’s shot behind.
Southampton offered little threat at the other end. Sofiane Boufal, on his first Premier League start, was peripheral and Charlie Austin looked far too isolated at times. The striker escaped in the inside right channel just before half-time but a promising position came to nothing because of the lack of support and Austin threw his arms in the air in exasperation.
The pattern of the game remained the same in the second half, with Liverpool setting the tempo and Van Dijk fortunate not to be punished for tugging Firmino’s shirt. Firmino was furious that play was allowed to carry on and, although the offence looked to have taken place just outside the area, Van Dijk would have been in trouble if the referee, Mark Clattenburg, had spotted it.
Liverpool, however, had only themselves to blame for the profligacy that followed. Coutinho, set free by Firmino after Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had carelessly given away the ball, sliced wide with only Forster to beat. José Fonte, in fairness, had made up plenty of ground to put Coutinho under pressure, but it was still a position from which the Brazilian would have expected to score.
The same was true for the golden opportunity that Firmino squandered in the 66th minute, with Coutinho this time the provider. The darting runs from Mané and Wijnaldum opened up space for Firmino, who was beautifully found by Coutinho’s measured pass, yet the striker, using the outside of his boot, steered a low shot inches wide of Forster’s far upright.
Southampton were pinned in, with their attacking threat confined to the rare breakaway. Yet one of those fleeting glimpses of Southampton pushing forward did almost yield a goal. Cedric Soares, running on to Nathan Redmond’s pass, crossed from the right and Austin climbed above Clyne, but headed wide.
Desperate for a goal, Klopp introduced Sturridge from the bench and that change nearly paid off when the forward wriggled clear in the area and crossed for Clyne, who headed powerfully beyond the far post.