James Milner missed a second-half penalty as Liverpool’s hopes of securing a Premier League top-four spot suffered a blip in a goalless draw against Southampton.
It was a terrible spectacle for the supporters inside Anfield. Liverpool rarely tested Saints keeper Fraser Forster, bar the penalty and Marko Grujic’s header late in the game. The visitors, meanwhile, failed to muster even one effort on target.
The Reds’ best chance to score came in the 66th minute when they won a penalty after Southampton’s Jack Stephens was judged to have handled Lucas’ delivery.
Milner, who had not missed from the spot in the league since November 2009, saw his effort saved by Forster who dived low to his right. Seconds earlier, the England keeper approached the midfielder as he attempted to place the ball on the spot – and the tactic seemed to work.
The draw sees the Reds move up to third, above Manchester City, on 70 points. However, Pep Guardiola’s side have a game in hand.
Manchester United, five points behind, have two games in hand and face Arsenal at the Emirates in Sunday’s 16:00 BST kick-off.
Liverpool underwhelm in crucial period
It was dire. Truly dire. Was the first half of this match the worst seen in the Premier League this season?
The home sections at Anfield must have thought they were in for a treat – the sun was shining and they knew their team had to take the game to Southampton with a Champions League spot at stake.
But instead of a siege on Forster’s goal, what they witnessed during that opening period were their players joining the Saints on the beach.
The first 45 minutes were slow and ponderous, and the only exertions by the Southampton keeper were three very comfortable saves.
The second half followed a similar pattern up until the penalty, which was a correct decision by referee Bobby Madley with the Stephens’ arm moving up to push the ball away.
However, Milner – who last missed a Premier League penalty playing for Aston Villa against Bolton – saw his effort saved by Forster. Was he put off his stride by the keeper confronting him moments earlier?
Forster kept his concentration right up until the final few minutes of the game when he reacted brilliantly to tip over substitute Grujic’s header.
The Reds have now played Southampton four times this season and failed to score against them.
Southampton boss Claude Puel appeared somewhat surprised this week when he was asked about reports regarding his future.
It had been suggested that some players had become disillusioned with his style of management.
Their Premier League status was only made secure with Hull’s defeat on Saturday, and they came into the match on the back of two defeats and a draw.
At Anfield, the team must have bored their travelling fans into submission.
The graphic above shows that they mostly sat in their own half for the opening 45 minutes, and for the first time since they returned to the top flight in 2012 they failed to have a single effort in the first half of a match. An angled strike by Nathan Redmond in the second half was the closest they came to scoring – although it was a few yards wide.
Having been spoilt for entertainment when their team was managed by Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino, some Southampton fans must be wondering what type of football awaits them next season if Puel stays.