Nathan Redmond’s 20th minute strike was the difference between Southampton and Liverpool when the sides clashed in their EFL Cup first-leg semifinal at St Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday night.
A 1-0 result was not a fair indicator of the game and one the hosts will perhaps rue in the second-leg, considering the number of chances they missed.
Both sides put out very strong sides, not surprising that this is the penultimate stage of the League Cup, with Liverpool affording injury-hit striker Daniel Sturridge a rare start. Sadio Mane didn't even make the bench, with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp keeping one-eye on the mammoth Premier League clash with Manchester United on Sunday.
And Sturridge was marshalled extremely well by Saints’ defender Virgin van Djik, each time he got the ball, the Dutch defender was at hand to recover possession.
Despite their main forward not at his sharpest, the Reds fashioned the first real chance of the game, Roberto Firmino’s volley from inside the box forcing Fraser Forster to make a smart reaction save.
That turned out to be the only instance when the visitors would threaten, as Redmond went close soon after, but found Lorius Karius equal to the task.
The 22-year-old wasn't to be denied for long, however, calmly finishing a one-on-one chance after Jay Rodriguez had slipped him in with a cheeky nutmeg pass on Dejan Lovren. While Liverpool’s defenders vainly appealed for offside, they had only themselves to blame, as Ragnar Klavan had mis-kicked a routine clearance, allowing Rodriguez time to pick out a pass to Redmond.
Karius’ performances this season have come under severe criticism this season, but he was in fine fettle, denying Redmond with an excellent save after Ryan Bertrand had embarrassed a couple of Liverpool defenders on the left wing.
Liverpool pressed harder for a vital equaliser in the second-half, but left themselves open to a counter-attack and Southampton really should have wrapped up the tie, but full-back Cedric Soares erroneously chose to shoot from a tight angle despite having the option to square to Jay Rodriguez.
While a 1-0 deficit is by no means definitive, Liverpool know after a draw with Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup on the weekend, they are not in the ideal run of form going into their clash against United on Sunday.