Southampton 0 Liverpool 0
International breaks are always a bit of a slog to get through, but this one felt a little longer than usual. Maybe it’s the weather and the retreating sunlight. Maybe the manufactured controversy over poppies for England vs Scotland induced a sort of fatigue. Or maybe it was current events. Regardless, the return of league football was greeted with profound relief and a bit of fuzziness.
The team was certainly feeling it today on the south coast. The midfield was as solid as ever. The attacking trio of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mané, arguably the strongest forward line outside of the Camp Nou, made plenty of threats but could not make good on any of them. Wave after wave of attacks from the visitors crashed against the rocks. Fraser Forster defended his goal like a man possessed. And in the end, Liverpool squandered an opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and their rivals at the top of the table.
Southampton Away has been a difficult fixture for a while. Liverpool have performed better at St. Mary’s in the very recent past, but the Reds go into that fixture knowing a 3-0 loss wouldn’t bee wholly unexpected. Familiarity also breeds a particular kind of awkwardness in this fixture; no less than three members of Liverpool’s starting XI came to Anfield via Southampton, and would’ve likely been four but for Adam Lallana’s injury. For all of Liverpool’s confidence right now, they could not, and did not, go into this match with undue expectations.
Still, the goalless draw feels indelibly like a missed opportunity. So many chances to find the back of the net, either blocked by Forster or sent just wide of the post. No luck on set pieces. A rare opportunity for Nathan Clyne to score, but comes up just short. Jürgen Klopp replacing Emre Can with Daniel Sturridge in a last-ditch effort to steal all three points. Say what you will about Liverpool’s failure to get the win, but it was not for a lack of trying.
Rather, the performance seemed like the team had another gear they could’ve shifted into, but couldn’t. One last thing that needed to click into place, but didn’t. The Reds were always just a little off-step. A little off-balance. A little off-target. In a way, they resembled so many of us over the past week and a half— thrown for a loop, forced to get back to work because life must go on, making a brave effort despite not being quite at 100%. The Reds gave as much as they could muster on the day, and maybe it’s fine that they got something out of it.
With the rest of Saturday’s results, Liverpool remained at the top of the Premier League table but tied on points and goal difference with Manchester City. A win from Chelsea over Middlesbrough tomorrow will knock the Reds down to second. This is what we’re left with: a decent result given the fixture and an overall solid performance that nonetheless wasn’t good enough. Football isn’t always a great reflection of life, but when it is, boy howdy.