Liverpool 1: Benteke 77'
Southampton 1: Mané 86'
Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool is better than the team that struggled under Brendan Rodgers in terms of organization and pressing, but chance creation and final third defending remain core issues. That was on full display against Southampton, as the Reds played a solid but uninspiring game that ended in a 1-1 draw.
There are certainly positives to take out of the match. Liverpool controlled possession excellently and got stronger as the match progressed, marking an important reversal from the team’s second half energy drop-offs under Klopp in its previous two games. There was also noticeable chemistry growth in the attack. Alberto Moreno looked dangerous overlapping down the left wing, and a couple of his passing combinations down that flank almost resulted in goals.
Christian Benteke came on at half time for Divock Origi and turned the match in Liverpool’s favor. His powerful 77th minute header from a James Milner cross put Liverpool ahead and will rightly get most of the attention, but his general holdup play made a big difference as well.
The problem was that for all the possession and pressure that Liverpool mounted, the Benteke chance was the only clear chance that the team could manufacture. There were lots of “almosts,” but there’s really no excuse for only hitting the target twice at home in any Premier League match.
Usual playmaker Philippe Coutinho again struggled to make his mark. His run of poor form is starting to take its toll on the team, and it’ll be interesting to see if Klopp opts to deploy him centrally going forward to get more out of him.
Milner and Adam Lallana were pretty average, with both showing flashes of quality amid long stretches of mediocrity. Roberto Firmino was all right when he came on in the second half, and he’ll be in the conversation for a start against Chelsea as long as he stays on track to regain full fitness.
That all adds up to minimal excitement in the attacking midfield against Southampton and subsequently just a single goal to show for 61% possession. That should have been enough. But a classic case of Liverpool debauchery at the back allowed Sadio Mané to sneak in for a tap-in for a late equalizer after a set piece caught the Reds off guard.
Liverpool fans have to hope that the full time returns of Firmino and Benteke push the attack out of its funk next weekend against Chelsea in a pivotal match up. The structure of the team appears stronger, and there’s a platform for success being built. But the next step must be taken soon.
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