After yet another seemingly endless two weeks of international football and meaningless friendlies Liverpool travelled to Southampton this weekend looking to pick up from where they left off at Watford and that’s sitting at the top of the Premier League table.
The aforementioned internationals accounted for the absence of Adam Lallana return to his former club due to a slight injury he picked up against Spain. He was replaced in Liverpool’s midfield by Georginio Wijnaldum who would link up with Emre Can who retained his position after two excellent displays since his comeback from injury a month ago.
Southampton are a team of nice footballers and a lot of talent but Liverpool visited them today with the Saints suffering somewhat of a mixed bag of results recently. The stats tell us that they have lost at home only once in their last ten league games, whilst they lie midtable having scored only twelve goals in the eleven games and have lost four and drawn four also.So it was hard to see which Saints team would turn up against Liverpool who had some the likes of Phillipe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané returning to the UK from the far side of the world.
It was 0-0 at half time in this game. A game that could have been predicted so far as it was slow to get going probably due to the lay off for international duties and consisted mostly of a lot of short neat passing from both sides without much in the way of outright threats to goal.
The few that did come were as a direct result of the duel between Sadio Mané and Virjil VanDijk. Mané was trying to get in through the middle behind Van Dijk and on both occasions that he did the big defender was impressive in his ability to get back at Mané and block his shots or tackle him.
Indeed Mané was denied by a great save from Frazer Forster 27 mins when he tried to curl one into the top corner after the ball came to him from a Nathaniel Clyne cross in to the box from the right.
He was again denied on 39 mins when the quick feet of Winjaldum and Couthino set Mané free through the middle and against just as he shot Van Dijk was there to thwart him with against block from out of no where.
There was not much in the way of a threat going forward from the Saints. Charlie Austin was left up front on his own and abandoned to the attentions of both Joël Matip and Dejan Lovren (who was heavily booed every time he touched the ball).
Loris Karius only real involvement in this game so far was to come out and punch away well a cross on 19 mins. Those rugby pad sessions just may be starting to pay off on that point.
Liverpool did press higher and pass the ball quicker in the final third of the field as the half went on leading to some misplaced passes from the Saints and chances as a result.
Roberto Firmino was at his best in that first half hunting the ball down, applying pressure and being an all round nuisance to defenders. Couthino on the other hand looked tired and leggy but going in at the break it looked like Liverpool were starting to find some sort of rythm and those final balls were starting to come for Mane and Co.
The second half was the same as the first,a lot of possession with Southampton falling back deep and defending with two lines closing out space in the middle.
The two best chances of the second half for Liverpool fell to Couthino and his Brazilian team mate Firmino. Both when they only had the goalkeeper to beat fluffed their chances, Couthino practically fell over the ball while tryin to shoot.
Firmino tried to slide his shot past the onrushing Forster with the outside of his foot and put it wide when it seemed easier to score. Nathaniel Clyne also had a great chance to seal the win late on when he rose at the back post to head the ball back across the goal and wide with the net gaping after some magic from Daniel Sturridge who replaced Emre Can on 77 mins and provided some more movement uo front.
Charlie Austin will be kicking himself after he too fluffed his one and only chance as he headed wide with the net gaping also on 57 mins following a rare cross into the box from Cedric. It was the home teams best and only real chance all game as they relied on trying to hit Liverpool on the break but could never really make it work.
This was a game Liverpool dominated in terms of possession and field position. Always high and moving through the lines well. All three of Liverpool’s front men had chances but no one could provide the precise finishing needed and the 3 points went a begging as a result.
A clean sheet was a plus but in truth it was never really under threat. Karius had what will be one of his quietest days ever in goals today. Adam Lallana was missed in Liverpool’s midfield and no doubt people will make more of his absence than it really showed but had the finishing been better people could also say Lallana had a well deserved break.
Philippe Couthino looked tired and weary no doubt from his two games away with Brazil whereas Firmino who didn’t play in those games was fresh and full of running.
It was “one of those days” but we still picked up a point and move on again. The week ahead will no doubt see players return to normality after international duty and next time out I expect we will see a fresher team.
Written by @StephenKing75