20 March 2016

Liverpool 2-3 Southampton

Coutinho 17'
Sturridge 22'
Mane 64' 86'
Pelle 83'

Liverpool had no right losing that match, and there are multiple scapegoats for it. But there's one very, very, very big scapegoat.

Does it make it better than Liverpool should have conceded a penalty and had Lovren sent off in the eighth minute? Not really. But, admittedly, Liverpool should have: beaten by a long ball over the top, Lovren grappling with Long before the striker went down easily. It should have been given, but wasn't.

And from there, it looked like Liverpool would profit. Liverpool began the counter-attack we saw when these sides met in the League Cup: another brilliant Coutinho strike from distance, quickly followed by Origi and Sturridge tearing Southampton a new orifice when up against Southampton's two center-backs.

Liverpool should have extended its lead – Forster wonderfully denying Allen on a textbook fast break, Allen's set play goal chalked off because Sakho was marginally offside in front of the keeper – but it seemed only a matter of time. Liverpool were rolling and Southampton had no response, failing to put a single shot anywhere near Mignolet's goal in the first 45 minutes. But then halftime happened.

Southampton's halftime changes completely changed the game. Wanyama solidified Southampton's midfield, helping to close off and prevent Liverpool counter-attacks, while Mané presented much more of an attacking threat that the irrelevant Tadic. Mané will get the headlines, scoring twice – his first goals since his last against Liverpool, now scoring in three consecutive matches against Liverpool – and a missed penalty, but Wanyama was just as important. Liverpool rarely had the opportunities they saw in the first half – really, just one, unsurprisingly missed by Christian Benteke.

And Liverpool's halftime change ruined Liverpool. After the match, Klopp claimed he removed Lovren because of "the emotion" of the situation. Southampton's fans booed Lovren at every touch. He should have given away a penalty, he should have had a red card, he was on a yellow. I guess I see it. But still. Because Martin Skrtel.

Martin Skrtel is the main reason that Liverpool lost this match. It took four minutes for him to concede a penalty – which, to be fair, was a make-up call for the earlier one ignored. That Mignolet saved it, his fourth penalty save in the last three seasons, seemed a reprieve. Little did we know.

Skrtel wasn't completely or solely at fault for all three goals, but he was involved in each. Let's count the errors. Out of position for Mané's first, although he couldn't have planned on Flanagan cheaply conceding possession. Losing an aerial duel with Pelle, then losing his balance and out of the play, prior to Southampton's second. And then completely misjudging his clearing header to set up Southampton's third, although Mignolet's terrible goal kick put him in that position.

Skrtel played very, very badly, and Skrtel made everyone around him worse. Double whammy. Liverpool had conceded just three goals in the previous 795 minutes of football, then Skrtel comes on and Liverpool concede three in 45 minutes. Quite the coincidence. But, yeah, there's plenty of blame to go around.

Klopp's substitutions – rightfully lauded all season – were not good. He had no response to Southampton seizing the initiative. Skrtel made Liverpool's defense worse; Benteke made Liverpool's attack worse – and, of course, he missed Liverpool's one good second half chance, shooting wide from a marginally difficult angle on Liverpool's lone counter-attack. Too late, Klopp realized the midfield needed help, but Southampton equalized as Henderson was getting ready. Firmino, Lucas and Stewart injured; Milner suspended; Henderson still ill and only fit enough for the bench all hindered Klopp's ability to make changes. That's not enough of an excuse.

Flanagan, captaining the side, was poor throughout the second half, undeniably not helped by Skrtel being Skrtel, but giving the ball away cheaply in both the attacking and defensive halves, posed many more problems by Davis cutting inside than Tadic in the first half. Benteke again disjointed the attack and (I'll keep repeating) missed his one good chance. And while Mignolet saved Mané's penalty as well as a a difficult Romeu shot from distance, it was his awful kick which directly led to Southampton's third. Coutinho and Lallana weren't effective enough in the second half, Can and Allen looked good going forward but left far too much space between the lines in defense. Clyne contributed little from left-back, less than Flanagan did when playing there in 2014-15.

When you lose 2-3 after leading 2-0, there's more than enough blame to go around.

Liverpool hadn't lost after going 2-0 up since March 2012, a 2-3 loss at QPR when QPR scored three in the final 15 minutes once Coates' bicycle kick gave Liverpool what appeared an unassailable lead. That was 216 matches ago. At least Southampton are better than QPR?

Once again, any time there's a modicum of optimism around the club, Liverpool defecate all over the entire bedspread. Liverpool respond to the euphoria of beating United in Europe with this. We've another example of the still-present problems in attack, in defense, and with the squad in general.

And now, Liverpool have a two-week international break to think about what they've done.

1 comment :

Liverpool Hospitality said...

Really really poor... I went to the game and after an hour I thought we really could steal a 4th place finish. With United beating City this weekend, Liverpool would be only 4 points off 4th with a game in hand. Had we won I think we would steal 4th with momentum. Now we have to hope we can scrape past Dortmund and win the Europa League.