Anfield bared witness to Liverpool’s latest struggle for points and momentum in their quest for Champions League qualification on Sunday.
While the Reds have failed to score in their three previous meetings against Southampton this season, fans of the North West team were optimistic going into today’s fixture, following a hard fought victory at Vicarage Road last weekend. This, coupled with Manchester United’s failure to beat Swansea, had many kopites feeling that the tide was starting to turn for their favourites.
There remains a sizeable distance between expectation and reality in these parts however, and a Liverpool team missing key members in captain Jordan Henderson and powerhouse winger Sadio Mane; and with Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge starting on the bench, failed to take advantage of 65% possession and 8 shots on target in a game well short on excitement.
Southampton for their part, set out their stall early and were rarely troubled defensively. Despite this, it was goalkeeper Fraser Forster who won the plaudits and the mind games, saving a James Milner penalty in the 65th minute to secure a nil all draw for his team. The Saints failed to get a shot on target themselves, but nonetheless return to St Mary’s with a point in hand, consolidating their top ten position in the league.
For Liverpool it continues to be a case of what might have been. The team look tired and short on ideas when facing a well drilled back line – a recurring theme throughout the season. The full backs were unable to provide the width and energy to contribute deep crosses, while a front three of Coutinho, Firmino and Origi, toiled – but offered little in the way of threat or penetration.
Liverpool travel to West Ham next, before completing their campaign with a home game against Middlesbrough.
They will almost certainly need six points to secure a place in this summer’s Champions League draw and while Jurgen Klopp’s men will remain fancied to achieve this, it’s certainly not a forgone conclusion.
We think it likely that Lallana will start at the Olympic Stadium, greatly increasing Liverpool’s chances of converting against West Ham. The Hammers themselves will want to build on the back of their defeat of Spurs last week, which may well see them pushing onto the Reds – a tactic that could well play into the hands of Klopp’s men.