Liverpool started well, but after Southampton scored never looked especially dangerous in attack. It added up to a dull, drab, and dispappointing affair, at least for the visitors and their fans, as the host Saints held on to a 1-0 victory. But it’s not all bad according to stand-in captain James Milner.
“Our build-up play wasn’t too bad,” the left back insisted following the disappointing defeat. “But it was just in the final third when we got into good positions we made the wrong decision and we didn’t create enough, which obviously cost us. I thought we started well, but the goal rocked us back a bit.
“They had the better chances in the game as well so it was disappointing, but it’s only 1-0 and there’s still 90 minutes still to go. I think the fact we haven’t played too well and are only one goal behind is a positive. We are at home in the second leg and hopefully we can overturn it and get to Wembley.”
That, clearly, is the silver lining. Liverpool didn’t look great, but neither did Southampton, and at home the Reds will have to be confident that they can overturn their deficit. Given their scoring exploits this season, many will be expecting them to do just that when the two sides meet again.
Yet despite those scoring exploits, this is a side that has often struggled to break down teams that sit deep and compact. They struggle with parked busses. They struggled against Plymouth earlier in the week when the lower league side packed in deep against a team made up of youth and reserves.
And then the first team players struggled against Southampton when, having gotten their break and capitalised on it for the opening goal, the Saints shut up shop, packed in deep, and dared Liverpool to do something about it. The answer to that, says Milner, can be found in the return of Philippe Coutinho.
“It’s a credit to the boys the amount of goals we have been scoring without him, but it’s great to see him back,” Milner noted. It’s not easy when you’ve been out that long still thinking about the injury so it was positive for him to get some minutes. The more he plays, the more influential he will be for us again.”