Southampton peg Liverpool back as Klopp finds first win elusive
Sadio Mané’s equaliser cancels out Christian Benteke’s late header at Anfield
Sadio Mané’s late goal secured Southampton a 1-1 draw at Anfield. Photograph: Reuters
Just to be clear it is Liverpool who are the draw specialists, not their new manager. Jürgen Klopp is simply taking longer than expected to galvanise a side who have now shared the points in eight of their last nine games. The German thought he had overseen his first win here when Christian Benteke put Liverpool into the lead with 13 minutes remaining, only for Sadio Mané to level the scores nine minutes later before being sent off in stoppage time for a foul on Alberto Moreno that brought his second yellow.
If that makes the game sound exciting, it was only the final quarter. A tedious first half made the earlier anticlimax at Old Trafford look scintillating. “Where’s your famous atmosphere?” the Southampton fans chorused, and Klopp could have been forgiven for wondering the same thing. Anfield was so eerily quiet most of the time it was possible to make out all the insults Adam Lallana was receiving from his former public and there was certainly little happening on the pitch for anyone to get worked up about. With Daniel Sturridge still absent and Benteke on the bench there was no focus to the home attacks and slightly too much of Philippe Coutinho, James Milner and Lallana moving the ball around on the edge of the visitors’ area with no end result.
Southampton looked more purposeful when they came forward, holding the ball well and always threatening to find Graziano Pellè in a dangerous area, although it was Virgil van Dijk who came closer to scoring when the visitors ended the half with a sustained spell of pressure. The centre-half brought a save from Simon Mignolet when left unmarked at the far post from a free-kick, then won a header from the resulting corner to force Lucas Leiva to clear from under his own crossbar.
Moreno fired high and wide from Lallana just before the interval, though perhaps the best chance of the half fell to Steven Davis when Mamadou Sakho misjudged a defensive header. The ball went straight to Davis near the penalty spot but he was either too surprised or too off balance to take advantage with a shot at goal.
It was no surprise to see Benteke replace Divock Origi for the second half and immediately he combined with Lallana to set up a half-chance and earn the first of a succession of corners. Nothing came of any of then but at least Liverpool brought the crowd to life with a promising flurry of attacks as Southampton were pinned back, culminating with Moreno sending a fierce shot across the face of goal from a narrow angle.
Moreno’s next effort, from a more promising position after being found well by Lallana and Coutinho, ended up high in the Kop to audible groans, though the pacy full-back instantly made amends by racing from half way to dispossess Mané in the act of shooting.
As in the Europa League game against Rubin Kazan on Thursday, Klopp also added Roberto Firmino to his attacking mix before the end, though it was Benteke, with an old-fashioned centre forward’s header, who finally broke the deadlock. Milner retrieved a loose ball on the right wing, looked up and hit a measured cross. Benteke timed his run perfectly, climbed higher than José Fonte, and planted a firm header into Maarten Stekelenburg’s top left corner. Klopp, increasingly a passive figure on the touchline, leapt into the air in celebration, prematurely as it turned out.
When James Ward-Prowse launched a free-kick into the Liverpool area four minutes from the end, Southampton won two successive aerial challenges, and when Gastón Ramírez headed across the face of goal from the last, Mignolet could neither reach the ball nor prevent Mané hooking it in.