When things absolutely refuse to go your way at the pointy end of your team’s metaphorical spear, you had better hope that your back line is on top of its game at the other end of the pitch. Such was the case at St. Mary’s yesterday, where Liverpool kept a firm grip on possession, but was unable to convert that domination into a goal. The threat of a Burnley-esque sucker punch was certainly on many minds as the second half wore on, but Liverpool’s central defenders held firm this time, with Joël Matip’s performance yet again making his free transfer look like a masterstroke.
While nobody on the Liverpool team bus was particularly thrilled with the end result, there was, as Jürgen Klopp noted, at least the silver lining of a clean sheet - somewhat of a rarity for the Reds this season. Matip was a key reason for that clean sheet, and speaking after the match, he displayed in his observations a level of efficiency and equanimity that is quickly becoming his trademark as a defender as well.
“A point away at a good team,” was Matip’s simple assessment of the contest. “We had a few chances but we can't always score three or four goals. It's okay - one point at Southampton, we can live with this. For a defender it's always good to have a clean sheet and not to concede a goal but we always want to win.”
As Matip and his manager both noted, Southampton - who had only lost one out of the past ten home matches - did very well to remain organized over the ninety minutes, and while the hosts were unable to completely stifle Liverpool’s chance creation machine, luck and finishing were not on the Reds’ side this day. Matip also credited his defensive partner Dejan Lovren, who shrugged off the attentions of a stadium that was determined to show its dissatisfaction every time the former Southampton defender touched the ball.
“Over the whole ninety, ninety-five minutes, he played a wonderful game,” said Matip of Lovren. “He always helps me and he did well.”
Now that’s efficiency.