Football: Liverpool stumble in pursuit of top-four finish

Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster dives to his right to keep out James Milner's penalty kick. Liverpool, who have failed to score against the Saints in four meetings this season, are third in the table with two games left.
Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster dives to his right to keep out James Milner's penalty kick. Liverpool, who have failed to score against the Saints in four meetings this season, are third in the table with two games left.PHOTO: REUTERS

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Liverpool 0

Southampton 0

LONDON • Liverpool reclaimed third place in the English Premier League yesterday but there was no cause for celebration on the final whistle at Anfield.

James Milner sank to his haunches as he reflected on a potentially costly penalty miss while manager Jurgen Klopp could only offer his players consoling pats on the back after the goal-less draw.

The Champions League remains in sight, but Liverpool are stuttering towards the finishing line.

Southampton emerged unscathed from a confrontation with Klopp's team for the fourth time this season thanks to a composed defensive display and valuable contributions from Fraser Forster.

The England goalkeeper produced a fine save to deny Milner from the penalty spot in the second half but, in truth, victory would have flattered a laboured Liverpool performance.

It was Milner's first missed penalty since November 2009, when he was playing for Aston Villa against Bolton, and it summed up the feeling that this would not be Liverpool's day.

"The penalty was my fault, so it was probably my fault we did not get the three (points) and I have to take responsibility for that," the captain for the day in the absence of Jordan Henderson said.

"He (Forster) has seen me take lots of penalties with England and even going back to when we were at Newcastle. I cannot do anymore than hold my hands up and apologise to the boys. We wanted maximum points and we did not do that."

Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho returned from the leg injury that saw him limp out of last week's 1-0 win over Watford, but the Reds struggled to spark offensively against Southampton.

Two points from the last nine available at Anfield have ensured their pursuit of a top-four finish will not come comfortably.

"I thought the performance was good enough to win but it was a difficult game," Klopp said.

"It was a hard job to do, defending against 10 deep-defending Southampton players. It is very difficult for all teams. It doesn't feel at the moment like a point but it is a point gained. We will go to West Ham (on Sunday) and prepare, we will go for everything."

Forster also tipped a late header from substitute Marko Grujic over the bar, leaving Liverpool third in the table on 70 points, a point clear of fourth-placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2017, with the headline 'Liverpool stumble in pursuit of top-four finish'. Print Edition | Subscribe