25/10/2015: Liverpool 1-1 Saints
Saints claimed a good point with a late equaliser at Liverpool. A draw was probably a fair result on the balance of play, with the two sides even matched throughout. Saints remain in 8th position.
Ronald Koeman elected to start with two holding midfielders, with Jordy Clasie coming in to sit alongside Victor Wanyama. Liverpool were without an out-and-out striker, with Adam Lallana usually operating as the most advanced opposition player. The hosts played some quick short passing during the first 15 minutes or so, without really troubling the Saints defence. Emre Can had the first chance of the game, hitting the side netting at the near post from a corner on 4. A few minutes later Lallana shot tamely at Maarten Stekelenburg. Saints found little joy in attempting to counter, and the few set pieces Koeman's side won came to nothing.
After a solid start Liverpool struggled to maintain their fluency and the game got a bit scrappy. On 24 Coutinho shot over after cutting inside on the left. Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle were involved in some good interchanges for Saints, but the final ball was poor. James Milner shot just wide after combining with Lallana on the half-hour mark.
Saints came into the game a bit more towards the end of the first-half. Mane had a half-chance on 34. Ryan Bertrand drove the ball straight at Simon Mignolet, before Virgil van Dijk saw his header well saved at the near post. van Dijk headed dangerously across goal once again no more than 30 seconds after that first chance. Not long before half-time Alberto Moreno skied the ball after being played in by Lallana on the left.
Liverpool upped the tempo at the start of the second-half, winning a succession of corners. Saints didn't take too many risks going forward initially, but van Dijk did have another early opportunity from a corner. On 56 Moreno smashed the ball across goal, but fortunately nobody was alert enough to turn it in.
Saints came into it a bit more after the hour. Mane played off the last man, looking to beat the offside trap and run at goal from balls played over the top. On 65 Lallana flicked the ball over his own bar from James Ward-Prowse's corner. At the other end Coutinho blasted well over.
Just as the game appeared to be petering out Liverpool took the lead. Milner played a high hanging cross into the penalty area from deep. Half-time substitute Christian Benteke jumped up to head into the top corner of the net.
Nathaniel Clyne stopped both Bertand and Pelle from getting in for a chance in the immediate aftermath of the goal. Then on 81 Mane shot just over the bar from a difficult angle. Saints were building momentum and on 86 they levelled. As with the Liverpool goal it came from a long ball into the box. Jose Fonte flicked Ward-Prowse's free-kick up to the back post. Gaston Ramirez then nodded the ball across goal, allowing Mane to bundle in. If any team were going to grab all three points during the closing stages, Saints looked the more likely. Pelle fluffed a shot after Ramirez had driven forward with the ball. Just prior to the final whistle Mane was sent off for two quick bookings.
A fairly good result and performance from Saints. If you were being really critical you could argue that Liverpool were there for the taking and we could have gone at them more, but overall the positives outweigh the negatives. Saints limited Liverpool as an attacking threat, and created some good openings going forward. Clasie's inclusion raised a few eyebrows prior to kick-off following his lacklustre display against Leicester, but he stepped it up and looked a lot more at ease alongside his new teammates. Koeman made good use of his substitutes as well, with Ward-Prowse and Ramirez both involved in the equaliser. We've found a way to get results away from home, playing fairly good football in the process. Now to address the home form.
Stekelenburg: 6. Didn't have too many saves to make, but noticeably more assuring than Kelvin Davis was the previous week
Cedric: 7. Battled hard once again and provided some good crosses
Fonte: 7. Looked comfortable at the back for the most part and assured in defence. Had a role in the equalising goal
van Dijk: 8. A threat at attacking set-pieces once more and assured in defence
Bertrand: 7. Back on form after a rare off-day against Leicester. Made some excellent runs down the left to support the attack during the second-half
Clasie: 7. Much more disciplined than in previous outings. Passing reasonable. Was flagging a bit just prior to coming off, but overall much better
Wanyama: 7. Some lenient refereeing allowed him to tackle aggressively throughout, disrupting Liverpool's flow
Davis: 7. Covered a fair amount of ground, and displayed a great first touch
Mane: 7. Sending off was needless, but otherwise caused problems once again with his pace. Created a few chances out of very little
Tadic: 6. Pressed fairly well, but didn't create an awful lot in the final third
Pelle: 6. One of his least effective displays of the season. Neat and tidy in possession, but poor finishing and unthreatening in the air
Ward-Prowse: 7. Set piece delivery predictably good
Juanmi: Didn't really get involved in the game in the brief time he was on
Ramirez: Made a very good impact, giving Saints slightly more guile going forward
Liverpool: Benteke (77)
Saints: Mane (86)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Liverpool line-up: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno, Lucas, Can, Milner, Coutinho (Ibe 83), Origi (Benteke 46), Lallana (Firmino 67)
Subs not used: Bogdan, Toure, Allen, Randall
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Cedric, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Clasie (Juanmi 75), Wanyama, S Davis (Ramirez 80), Mane, Tadic (Ward-Prowse 64), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Caulker, Yoshida, Romeu