Liverpool Away Lost 4 – 0
Soares was never going to feature at Liverpool due to injury, but the arrival of his replacement, Walker-Peters, meant Ralph had a new option at full back – one that he wisely declined, although taking on the World Champions with our best midfielder now in defence wasn’t ideal, especially with injury also ruling out the suddenly in-form Armstrong. Bringing Djenepo in was an obvious decision, and he alternated wings with Redmond as the match progressed. Saints did what they do so well for 47 minutes, their shape and industry frustrating the home team, and quieting their crowd, while proving enough of a threat to make Becker the busier keeper as he saved from Long and Djenepo, plus Alexander-Arnold in an incident not deemed worthy of a backpass by referee Kevin “Nobody’s” Friend; TV subsequently revealed additionally that an Ings shot was blocked by Long. McCarthy, though, had the more anxious moments in a double save from Van Dijk (good!) and Firmino and he watched the VAR referral with the rest of us following a forward’s challenge by Long on Firmino as part of the same phase of play. The second period seemed to be starting promisingly too, with Ings just seeming to stumble as he almost broke through the Reds’ defence, but when play rapidly switched to the other end, Oxlade-Chamberlain was able to fire past a static and presumably unsighted McCarthy for 1-0. We now know that Ings had a good shout for a penalty in that build-up, but it wasn’t clear in live action and of course VAR officials are no less likely to favour the big clubs than their on-field counterparts. Without Ward-Prowse’s reassurance in the middle, Southampton’s rightly famous shape now disintegrated as they chased the game, although Henderson coming back from an offside position didn’t help us pick him up as he made it two. Saleh broke clear to score a third and went on to add a scrappy fourth just before the end, but to be honest Liverpool also had plenty more second half opportunities, with McCarthy making several saves to divert criticism from his weak efforts to stop at least three of the goals he conceded, while Saints never really threatened after going behind. So the first blank on the road since the opening day. but happily with the cushion of 31 points still shoring up the team’s standing.
LSSC Man of the Match: James Ward-Prowse again. Might he now be making himself a career at the back?