Claude Puel’s visiting Saints once again stumped Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool to go through to Wembley 1-0 (2-0 on aggregate). A full-strength attacking lineup saw an energetic Daniel Sturridge start up top flanked by Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, while Adam Lallana returned to a central midfield role after an abortive stint in the attack at the weekend.
A combative Klopp defended his side’s performance in a tight contest of fine margins and missed chances. Emre Can was denied what would’ve been a belter of an opener as Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster followed up a spilled save with a desperate flap to just barely clear off the line. There was also a solid case for a penalty in the second half after Shane Long appeared to move his arm towards the ball inside the box.
“We had big, big chances but no luck,” Klopp said. “It was a good save [on Can’s shot] and a lucky [follow-up] from Forster. The ref also didn’t see the handball of Long and it doesn’t help in a game like this. You need one opener.
#LFC have been held in attack on six occasions this season. Thrice by #SaintsFC.— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) January 25, 2017
“We played well. It’s really difficult when a team like Southampton plays like they played today, but you have to create chances. We had 5, 6, 7 really big chances and that’s all you can do. You have to score of course. That’s what we didn’t do and we lost.”
Talk in the lead up to the game focused on the boss’ efforts to get his team to embrace the negative tactics they have so struggled against this term. And while, to their credit, the 70%+ possession the Reds enjoyed once again on the day didn’t appear to faze them as it has in the past, Klopp refused to concede that they will not eventually figure out how to break such teams down:
“For me as a coach it's not that difficult...it's not a problem. We still adapt. We have to score.”