Liverpool remain top of the Premier League, but missed a chance to extend their advantage after being held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium.
With Arsenal drawing against Manchester United and Manchester City overcoming Crystal Palace 2-1 in south London, Liverpool failed to extend a lead at the summit that stood at one point prior to this weekend’s games, though they stay ahead of Pep Guardiola’s side by virtue of scoring more goals.
Expectations were high with Liverpool scoring 12 goals in their past three games, but they were unable to continue that form against the resilient Saints.
Sadio Mane, returning to St Mary’s for the first time since joining a long list of players to swap the south coast for Anfield in June, was bright in an otherwise uneventful first half, forcing an impressive save from Fraser Forster in the 28th minute.
Liverpool upped their efforts to break the deadlock, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne coming close to the opener in the second half.
Jurgen Klopp sent Daniel Sturridge on with 12 minutes remaining to try and swing the match in their favour, but they failed to get the goal, leaving the door open for Chelsea to displace them with a win away at Middlesbrough on Sunday.
There was more interest in the stands than on the pitch during the early exchanges, with former Southampton defender Dejan Lovren roundly booed by the home faithful with every touch.
Clyne and Mane received much gentler treatment, but the Liverpool fans backed their Croatian centre-back with chants of: “Dejan Lovren, he’s top of the league.”
Liverpool enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and were the first side to hit the target. Georginio Wijnaldum – brought into the starting XI in place of the injured Adam Lallana – slid a pass to Mane on the left-hand side of the box, but his attempt to curl a shot inside the far post was punched behind by the diving Forster.
A 25-yard strike from Philippe Coutinho trickled wide of the upright before Virgil van Dijk matched Mane’s pace and made an excellent sliding block to stop him testing Forster again.
Van Dijk was lucky to escape unpunished after pulling Firmino’s shirt on the edge of the box two minutes after the restart, the Brazilian’s exaggerated fall perhaps influencing referee Mark Clattenburg’s decision to allow play to continue.
Coutinho was unable to punish a misplaced pass from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg when he sliced wide under pressure from Jose Fonte, while Charlie Austin, starved of support in the first half, missed the target with a header from Cedric’s excellent delivery.
Liverpool heeded that warning and Emre Can angled wide before Firmino failed to work Forster in a one-on-one 15 yards out.
Sturridge replaced Can in the 78th minute and worked space for a cross to the back post that Clyne sent back across goal and outside the upright.
Forster pushed away Firmino’s 20-yard drive in the closing stages as Saints held on for a point against the in-form Reds.
Key Opta stats:
– Southampton’s Premier League games this season have produced just eight first-half goals in total, a league-low figure.
– Two of Liverpool’s last five top-flight games have ended in goalless draws, after just one in the previous 37 under Jurgen Klopp.
– Saints have now gone three consecutive Premier League games without losing to Liverpool (DWD) their best such run since August 2000 (three draws in a row).
– The Reds kept a clean sheet for the first time in their last 12 Premier League away games.
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