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Saints dig in to deny Liverpool

Woeful finishing and last-ditch defending see Saints deny Liverpool

Southampton v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Southampton held league leaders Liverpool to a scoreless draw at St Mary's this afternoon, thanks to impressive defending and woeful Liverpool finishing.

In what was an organised, often backs to the wall performance, Saints will be delighted to have thwarted free scoring Liverpool, who looked rampant in attack before the international break. The guile of Adam Lallana was sorely missed this afternoon, following his injury while playing for England in midweek.

The solid defensive performance aside, Saints rode their luck at times. Virgil van Dijk seemed to tug down Roberto Firmino just after the restart, unseen by referee Mark Clattenburg.

Liverpool also wasted several chances throughout, with Philippe Coutinho scuffing a shot and Firminho toe-poaking another wide when both men were inside the box and expected to score in the second half.

Forster made a couple of good saves from Sadio Mane, whose goals helped Southampton come from behind to beat Liverpool 3-2 here last year, and Firmino.

Most impressive though were diving blocks from van Dijk and José Fonte, as the home team frustrated the visitors on a miserable, rain-soaked evening on the south coast.

Liverpool had the better of the entire game, with Southampton sitting back, soaking up pressure and looking to spring on the counter. Unfortunately for the hosts, they were unable to execute the attacking part of the plan effectively, with misplaced passes and Charlie Austin isolated up top; where Saints did excel in the first half though was defensively.

The league's top scorers threatened throughout, with Mane dancing through tackles and having two excellent chances denied. The first saw his curling effort well saved by Fraser Forster diving to his left, but the second was a thing of beauty from the impressive Virgil van Dijk. Mane found himself free in the box with a goal seemingly inevitable before the Dutchman slid from nowhere to deny the former Southampton man.

Southampton v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Van Dijk and Fonte were brilliant, marshalling Mane with Philippe Coutinho and Firmino also denied space to work their magic.

While Saints were compact and organised, their passing was dreadful, with counter attacks regularly breaking down and several errors nearly undoing their good work. Sofiane Boufal and Oriol Romeu saw poor passes feed Liverpool's attackers, as well as a poor throw from Forster, but the visitors could not capitalise.

The second half saw even more domination by Liverpool, who began to create - and miss - chances. Emre Can dragged a shot wide just past the hour mark, and Austin diverted Coutinho's dangerous free kick over his bar from two yards out, as Liverpool increased the pressure.

Southampton failed to create anything, apart from one Austin header which he should have done better with following Cédric Soares's cross before the hour.

With Liverpool toiling, Daniel Sturridge was introduced with 13 minutes remaining, and his impact nearly broke the deadlock. The Englishman's cross found former Saint Nathaniel Clyne at the far post, who could only head wide.

Southampton threw on Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez, but neither did much attacking with Harrison Reed also coming on to close Liverpool out. Liverpool had no answers, with Coutinho having a late effort blocked and Southampton happy with a point at home to the table toppers.

Saints fans will delight in how Chelsea could usurp Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table should they beat Middlesbrough on Sunday, while Man City are level on points and on goal difference.

The result leaves Southampton tenth, ahead of a crucial Europa League tie against Starta Prague in midweek before Ronald Koeman's Everton visit St Mary's next Sunday.
Claude Puel will delight at being able to have rested Dušan Tadić here, with Reed, Long and Rodriguez looking sharp having returned from injury.

Teams
Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Fonte (C), van Dijk, Bertrand; Romeu, Davis, Højbjerg Reed), Boufal (Long); Redmond, Austin (Rodriguez)

Subs: Taylor, Yoshida, Clasie, Long, Rodriquez, Martina, Reed

Liverpool: Karius, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Henderson (C), Can (Sturridge), Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Mane (Origi), Firmino

Subs: Mignolet, Moreno, Origi, Klavan, Sturridge, Grujic, Lucas