Liverpool Home Drew 0 – 0
Games against our Italian Europa League opponents had reminded me of Britain’s first mass exposure to Helenio Herrera’s catenaccio defence – when Inter took on Celtic in the 1967 European Cup final, and seemingly failed to advance out of their own half after taking a 7th minute lead. Little did I expect Saints ever to try the same, but against Liverpool, they certainly didn’t manage anything approaching a shot at goal in an ultimately successful effort to prevent a third successive defeat by doing what they do best – prevent the other side from playing. It takes a great deal of concentration to see that through, but in Fonte, Van Dijk, Romeu and Davis they had the players to do it. When the Reds did achieve their own meagre two shots on target, Forster was there to make the saves, in particular that in the first half to deny Mané. The other after the break was more routine, but the visitors had other opportunities as the game wore on; fortunately Firmino with a bad miss and Clyne with a misplaced header were unable to take advantage. Just what Plan B may have been had Saints gone behind we’ll never know, but I suspect it would have been very similar to Plan A, only with more expected of the wide men, Redmond and Boufal, who did very little. Tadić didn’t make the squad thanks to a busted nose incurred when representing his country in Cardiff, but there were welcome returns for Soares and Long, the latter from the bench. Soares looked keen to impress (maybe he fancies following his erstwhile mates to Merseyside?) and he produced the cross which allowed Saints fans to hope for what would have been a very unlikely winner, but Austin’s header went wide. And that’s it really, as the stats say more than prose can: Southampton had 35% possession, 3 shots (none on target), one corner and 243 completed passes – Liverpool had 15 shots, 8 corners and 537 passes! It was, nevertheless, an absorbing 90 minutes and an acceptable result against the team deservedly sitting on top of the League, but we were forced into a style of play that we would not wish to see repeated very often!
LSSC Man of the Match: Virgil Van Dijk. Both he and Fonte made important last gasp tackles but Van Dijk’s challenge on Mané had to be timed perfectly. We’ll gloss over a tug on Firmino that he managed to hide from referee Clattenburg.