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Saints dig in for Anfield point as Milner misses from the spot

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Fraser Forster's penalty stop helped Saints hold Liverpool to a bore draw this afternoon at Anfield

Liverpool v Southampton - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Saints frustrated Liverpool's chances of qualifying for next year's Champions League by holding them to a nil-nil draw at Anfield this afternoon.

James Milner's first penalty miss in eight attempts this season just after the hour mark proved to be the game's decisive moment. Diving down to his right, Fraser Forster denied his Englishman after winding him up before he took it and appeared to scuff the turf a little. It was Forster's first penalty save in the Premier League for Southampton with the England stopper having kept four clean sheets against Liverpool this season.

Despite showing barely any ambition throughout, Saints were resolute and defended well - apart from one moment of madness from Jack Stephens which resulted in the penalty. Lucas Leiva's chipped ball looked innocuous enough, only for Stephens to handball the ball needlessly; whether he meant it or knew nothing about it is unclear, but he was spared by Forster's top save.

Liverpool v Southampton - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The first 45 minutes passed without incident, bar a few handbags and a couple of questionable refereeing decisions annoying the Liverpool faithful.

Southampton sat deep, knowing that they had yet to concede a goal to Liverpool this season, and looked to break down the wings. They failed miserably to do that though, with Manolo Gabbiadini isolated and easily dealt with by Joel Matip in particular.

With so many Saints men behind the ball and the home team so narrow, the only chances were pot shots from distance. Oriol Romeu was caught on the ball early on by Roberto Firmino but Maya Yoshida closed down the Brazilian's shot quickly.

Other tame long range efforts through Philippe Coutinho and Emre Can were straight at Fraser Forster, with Firmino's poor finishing also letting him down after he showed great strength in the middle of the pitch in holding off his marker.

Liverpool dominated possession, but Saints allowed them to have the ball with only Milner offering width down the left, with his crosses failing to cause much damage.

The second half started with Sofiane Boufal nearly sneaking in an effort at the near post, which resulted in a corner - but the visitors quickly retreated back into shape after that.

Romeu did brilliantly to steal in ahead of Lucas and was cynically checked by Matip's shoulder with referee Bobby Madley giving nothing.

Liverpool offered nothing much themselves bar a few more long range efforts until ex Saint Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge replaced Lucas and Divock Origi with just over twenty minutes to play.

Southampton showed their first real intent following the substitutions, Romeu's effort ricocheting to substitute Shane Long who was, as so often the case recently, offside. The game opened up a touch with Lallana and Sturridge threatening with clever play, yet saints stayed strong.

Dusan Tadic nearly found Long in Saint's only dangerous counter attack of the match, but his over hit pass couldn't match the brilliance of substitute Nathan Redmond's which started the attack, and so the chance passed.

More long range efforts from Coutinho, Sturridge and Lallana were easy work for Forster, with the only real drama coming from the crowd's jeers at Madley's refereeing. Simon Mignolet appeared to handle the ball outside the box late on and Firmino went close, but Liverpool didn't do enough to win the game.

Saints will be more or less pleased with the away point, yet the game did little to assuage the opinions held by many that Claude Puel is an overly conservative manager. With just four games remaining, the Frenchman will need to ensure a strong finish to the season with the board rumoured to be assessing their options in the summer.

Eighth is still achievable, albeit with difficult fixtures ahead, the question is how much the squad wants it and if Puel can inspire them to achieve it. Fans will not accept a final position in the table behind rivals Bournemouth or a finish in the bottom half of the table.

Teams:

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner (c), Can, Lucas (Lallana), Wijnaldum (Grujic), Coutinho, Firmino, Origi (Sturridge).

Subs: Karius, Moreno, Grujic, Sturridge, Alexander-Arnold, Lallana, Klavan.

Southampton: Forster, Cédric, Yoshida, Stephens, Bertrand, Davis (c), Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Tadić, Boufal (Redmond), Gabbiadini (Long).

Subs: Long, Rodriguez, Caceres, Redmond, Hojbjerg, Pied, Hassen.