Reds hit the wrong note against Saints

Southampton midfielder Nathan Redmond celebrating his goal against Liverpool in the 20th minute of the League Cup semi-final first-leg clash. He was prevented from adding to his tally by Reds goalkeeper Loris Karius, who started for the first time si
Southampton midfielder Nathan Redmond celebrating his goal against Liverpool in the 20th minute of the League Cup semi-final first-leg clash. He was prevented from adding to his tally by Reds goalkeeper Loris Karius, who started for the first time since losing his place to Simon Mignolet last month.PHOTO: REUTERS

Lacklustre Liverpool fortunate to head into League Cup return leg with just a 1-0 deficit

LONDON • Such was the lax, sluggish nature of Liverpool's performance that midway through the second half Jurgen Klopp sent out a piece of paper to Daniel Sturridge.

The striker ran around for 30 seconds reading the instructions, showing it to Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana, before discarding it.

It detailed a change of formation, but it could also have demanded a change of attitude.

Liverpool escaped lightly on Wednesday and will take just a 1-0 deficit into the League Cup semi-final return leg at Anfield in a fortnight. They were poor, eclipsed by Southampton in every department except in goal, where Loris Karius kept them in the tie.

But for the German custodian, Nathan Redmond would have had a hat-trick, rather than the solitary strike.

DOUBLE DISAPPOINTMENT

At this moment there are two disappointed managers after the game, one because he lost, the other because he won 1-0 and has to go to Anfield.

JURGEN KLOPP , the Reds boss, feels his side were lucky to lose 1-0 at Southampton.

Klopp sent on Philippe Coutinho for his first action since Nov 26, and the Brazilian's burst of pace and verve will surely be needed from the start against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

He was inevitably rusty but still gave Liverpool more ideas and energy, and his 30-minute cameo was the one positive for the 3,300 Liverpool fans who made the trip to St Mary's.

Otherwise, there was little for them to cheer. There was simple relief that the scoreboard did not reflect Southampton's excellence and their own team's travails.

Klopp admitted he was at a loss to explain how Liverpool had underperformed so dramatically.

"I've tried (to explain the performance) in three or four interviews but I cannot," the manager said. "I'm actually not used to a reaction like this from my boys but they have to accept that tonight was not good. We did not have a lot of chances - if we had some (at all)."

He also admitted he may have bamboozled his players by jotting down a change of tactics on a scrap of paper and passing it to Sturridge in the second half.

The striker appeared nonplussed, with other Liverpool players also bemused by the switch.

Klopp revealed he altered Liverpool's tactics to 3-5-2 but failed to get the message across to his players quickly enough.

"It was just a new system, however you want to call it, 3-5-2," said the German. "Two wingers, two strikers, that's all.

"I think we were a little bit too late when we gave him the paper when the game was already running on. That was our mistake.

"Seven or eight could see it but Roberto (Firmino) needed a bit longer. So things like this happen."

Despite the loss, Klopp insisted Liverpool will strike back.

He knows the Anfield atmosphere will propel his players to a more dynamic effort in the return leg on Jan 25 and he believes that could be enough to secure a Wembley date with United or Hull City.

"The performance doesn't feel too good. But for the final everything is open," Klopp said. "At this moment there are two disappointed managers after the game, one because he lost, the other because he won 1-0 and has to go to Anfield."

Southampton manager Claude Puel admitted his side should probably have secured a greater winning margin. But the Frenchman is confident the Saints can still progress to their first League Cup final since 1979.

"It's a little frustration that this win was just 1-0," he said. "With just a little more luck we could have been further ahead. But I think it was important to keep this result with a clean sheet, with a win, and to sustain our chances of qualifying for the final."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2017, with the headline 'Reds hit the wrong note against Saints'. Print Edition | Subscribe