Football Features

“Danny Ings driving the dagger in” – Winners and Losers as Saints snap Liverpool’s unbeaten streak with super strike at St. Mary’s

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:31, 4 January 2021

In an incredible night of football, Southampton beat Liverpool 1-0 at St. Mary’s.

This is the first time Jordan Henderson has featured in a defeat this season and the match marks a big opportunity missed for Liverpool to take the lead atop the Premier League table. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Danny Ings

It had to be Danny Ings, didn’t it? There was always a great chance Southampton were going to score in the game given the state of the Liverpool back-line, and if someone from Southampton is going to score – especially against Liverpool, Danny Ings is the most likely.

And what a finish it was!

James Ward-Prowse whipped a gorgeous free-kick into the box and it completely bewitched the Liverpool defence, allowing Danny Ings to run free. From here you’d expect Ings to take it down and try to stab home but Alisson closed him down wonderfully so Danny Ings did what Danny Ings does and flicked a gorgeous chip over the head of the onrushing Brazilian.

It was a miraculous goal worthy to win any game. Danny Ings, the nicest guy in the Saints line-up, the former Liverpool man beloved at Anfield, driving the dagger in.

Loser: Trent Alexander-Arnold

For two straight years Trent Alexander-Arnold looked a genuine phenomenon of a footballer. An almost superhuman presence at right-back, driving Liverpool forward as their chief playmaker. For two straight years he set records for assists by defenders in the Premier League.

But this season he’s looked surprisingly ordinary. Now part of that is down to injury woes keeping him out for a while and knocking his rhythm, but part of it is that Liverpool have made a conscious effort to evolve as a side which means that the side is no longer set for Alexander-Arnold to be their primary playmaker – which makes his attempts to refind his form much harder.

He was awful against Southampton, failing to perform a single defensive action throughout his time on the pitch, failing to block the cross for the Saints goal and then giving the ball away an astounding 38 times. A record for any Premier League game this season.

He was hauled off with Liverpool still chasing the game and Klopp even said after the match, about Southampton’s goal, “we have a player there, he missed the ball,” which is as close he’s ever come to calling out one of his players in public.

Not Trent’s night.

Winner: Thiago Alcantara

Obviously Liverpool got beaten at St. Mary’s and that’s never good but one of the few positives for Jurgen Klopp would have been the performance of Thiago Alcantara. The injury-prone midfielder made his first start for months and completed 90 minutes.

And he wasn’t just out there, he was genuinely impressive and constantly kept Liverpool moving forward and pushing Saints back. The Spaniard had a team-high 3 interceptions and completed 77/88 passes. At 87.5% that completion rate is low but he made 52 passes in the Southampton half which is more than any Saints player managed on the whole pitch.

Liverpool will be able to build on this, to build on Thiago.

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Winner: Jan Bednarek

With Jannik Vestergaard out injured, Jan Bednarek knew he had one hell of a task on his hands to keep out Liverpool’s formidable attacking trio on his own. Well, not on his own obviously but as the senior defender he had a lot more on his plate than usual.

And goodness gracious, Bednarek ate up every last thing Liverpool served up to him. 9 clearances was a game high, 5 interceptions a joint game-high. Liverpool dominated possession and repeatedly put the ball into the box yet only a handful of crosses were completed and in the end back-up goalkeeper Fraser Forster only had to make one save, and it was an easy one from a dribbling Sadio Manรฉ shot.

Winner: Ralph Hasenhuttl

This was the fifth time Ralph Hasenhuttl has managed a match against Jurgen Klopp, and in the four previous attempts (once for VfR Aalen against Klopp’s Dortmund in 2012 and the others for Saints against Liverpool) the matches have all ended in wins for Klopp.

Not this time, though. Despite some key injuries, including the loss of Moussa Djenepo first-half, Hasenhuttl’s men put on a fantastic performance. They battled Liverpool with fantastic counter-play in the first-half and then in the second period bunkered own and rebuffed every attack sent their way. It was a result that required colossal effort and concentration from Hasenhuttl’s men and that they were able to do so speaks to how well the Austrian has them coached.

Hasenhuttl collapsing to his knees at the final whistle sums up just what it meant to him. For his side to finally overcome an adversary that has so dominated him, for them to do so amidst such controversy, is an incredible thing. Moreover this was a massive win that lifted Saints up to 6th, just four points off the top of the table at the final whistle.

Trust the process.

Loser: Jurgen Klopp

Klopp said it himself before the match: “if it goes wrong it’s my fault”

Well, it went wrong.

Of course he was actually talking about Jordan Henderson at centre-back, which didn’t really go that badly, but you can take the statement to refer to the entire Liverpool performance because that really wasn’t good. Well, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t right.

It’s hard to say what went wrong for Liverpool really because they dominated the game and created chances and half-chances but they never really looked like scoring. Instances where normally their fabulous front three would ping in a deadly shot saw them hesitate, or wait just a second too long, or even pass the ball (the normally selfish Mohamed Salah was all too happy to play passes today).

Liverpool have now failed to win in their last three matches. Since stuffing 7 past Crystal Palace just before Christmas, they’ve scored just once after the festivities and dropped points to West Brom, Newcastle and Southampton, sides they either should beat or always do beat.

Klopp needs to find a solution to their goalscoring woes. Whether that’s persisting with Jordan Henderson at the back and playing hyper-offensive football revolving around Thiago Alcantara, or signing someone in the transfer market, they need to do something and it’s all eyes on the bespectacled German genius, waiting for him to come up with a great solution.