The Nigerian Online Newspaper

EPL: Liverpool slip in Champions League chase

Liverpool has returned to third place in the Premier League table but only after James Milner missed a penalty in a goalless draw with Southampton.
In a poor game, Milner saw his spot kick excellently saved by Fraser Forster as Liverpool failed to make much of an impact against a resolute Saints defence.
After Manchester City’s 5-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday, the onus was on Jurgen Klopp to send his side out to look for three points against a Southampton team who have largely under-performed this season.
However, after resisting the temptation to hand a start to Adam Lallana, Jurgen Klopp witnessed his players offer very little threat during a first half which further highlighted their lack of creativity and variety without the England international and Sadio Mane.
Liverpool were restricted to a number of long-range efforts on goal through Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Emre Can but each of the shots were easily saved by Forster.
Southampton looked comfortable in soaking up pressure from their hosts, but they were offering nothing in the final third with Manolo Gabbiadini and Sofiane Boufal both off the pace.
There was an expectancy that Klopp would tinker with his team at half time, but the German decided to keep with the same players and system as he placed more emphasis on trying to control the game rather than chase it.
If anything, though, Southampton offered more threat after the break and were starting to trouble Liverpool from set pieces but shortly after the hour mark, Liverpool were gifted a penalty.
The referee correctly pointed to the spot when the ball hit Jack Stephens’s arm but despite James Milner’s well-struck spot kick, Forster pulled off a brilliant save down to his right.
Klopp eventually opted to introduce both Lallana and Daniel Sturridge with 21 minutes remaining, but there was already a feeling that it was too little too late for the home team.
It did not take long for Sturridge to get involved in the action with a sharp turn on the edge of the penalty area, but he could only poke the ball straight at Forster.
Moments later, he dragged a 20-yard strike into the side-netting as he looked to inject some enthusiasm into the Liverpool attack, while Lallana also tried his luck from outside the box without any reward.
Liverpool continued to press, with Can seeing a deflected effort go just wide and Coutinho being denied by a spectacular save by Forster from a header, but when Klopp looks back at this game, he may recognise that he did not act fast enough with his substitutions when there was an inevitably that the game was heading towards a stalemate.