≡ Menu

Liverpool Limp Towards A Champions League Place

Jurgen Klopp turned to a new page in the excuses-for-managers textbook as he tried to explain how Liverpool dropped another two dropped points at home in the the race for a Champions League place.

After Liverpool struggled once again to create a meaningful chance against Southampton, who have now shut them out four times this season, Klopp claimed his players struggled to click into gear because the ­Anfield pitch was too dry.

“I know people don’t want to hear this but the pitch was really dry,” he said. “We gave it all the water we had but, because of the wind, it was really dry.

“It was nobody’s fault, but it made it difficult to play.”

As excuses go, this was was a lulu, because the game was at Anfield and Klopp controls how wet or dry the pitch was.

This was a game they had to win to keep Champions League qualification in their own hands yet their performance almost had an end-of-season feel to it.

Their fortunes were perhaps summed up by the fact it took Fraser Forster’s first-ever ­ Premier League penalty save to deny them — from James Milner’s first penalty miss since November 2009.

Maybe the fates had ­decided it simply wasn’t a good enough display from the Reds to deserve victory.

Not that Klopp’s team were helped by the antics of Forster and his team-mates after the spot kick was awarded on 65 minutes when Lucas, perhaps in desperation, chipped a ball ­forward, just as he did at ­Watford on Monday night for Emre Can’s spectacular winner.

Jack Stephens instinctively thrust out an arm as the ball dropped beyond him and a ­penalty was rightly given.

Forster tried to swing the balance in his favour when he roughed up the spot as he ­towered above Milner, whispering in his ear.

The pressure was on Milner but, even though he struck the ball firmly enough, Forster produced a fine save which Klopp felt was unfairly gained.

“I really don’t like to make a story of it but you saw what they did,” he said.

“On the one hand they will say it was very smart because he missed, but on the other hand you say it’s not sportsmanship.“

While Klopp complained afterwards about the Saints time-wasting, the bottom line was that Liverpool was flat and uninspired.
They were playing against a Saints side desperately low on form and ­confidence and yet it took them 13 minutes to even have a touch in the opposition penalty area, never mind fashion a chance.

In fact, it took them 34 minutes to create anything of note, Roberto Firmino finally escaping Saints shackles to spin and hit a shot from a promising position.

Alas, just like every other ­Liverpool shot on a depressing afternoon, it was straight at ­Forster.

Only when Klopp — far too late — threw on subs Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge did the game come alive, and twice Sturridge went agonisingly close.

Had he been on a little longer he could even have won it for Liverpool.

The fact is, though, Liverpool have taken two points from their last three home games against Bournemouth, Palace and Saints.

No matter how dry the pitch is, that is not Champions League standard, and they can have no complaint if they finish outside the top four.