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Southampton stun struggling Liverpool thanks to early goal

Southampton, England, Jan 4 (efe-epa).- Defending champion Liverpool will remain atop the Premier League table for one more week despite their latest setback – a 1-0 road defeat Monday night at the hands of Southampton that extended the Reds’ winless streak to three matches.

As was the case in draws late last month against West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, Jurgen Klopp’s men were missing the furious pace that has become the team’s hallmark under their German manager.

And that lack of intensity was not only evident in attack but also on the defensive side of the ball at St. Mary’s Stadium, particularly in the early going.

The main culprit was right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who failed to clear a chipped free kick by captain James Ward-Prowse over the Liverpool backline and allowed former Reds player Danny Ings to run onto the ball and score on a brilliant lob that landed just inside the far post in the second minute.

That early deficit would scarcely have rattled the Liverpool side of 2019-2020 that left all Premier League rivals in the dust.

But the visitors were strangely ineffectual in attack on Monday and did not manage a single shot on target in the entire first half, with their best chance coming on a Mohamed Salah header that flew over the crossbar in stoppage time.

The Reds pinned the Saints in their penalty area in the second half, but they were largely unable to turn their massive possession advantage into scoring threats.

The lone exception occurred in the 75th minute, when goalie Fraser Forster was finally forced into action to corral a harmless shot by Senegal international Sadio Mane that had deflected off a defender.

While the effort was there for Liverpool, the visitors time and again lacked the crisp execution needed to overcome the Saints’ solid defense.

Southampton, meanwhile, nearly added an insurance goal with six minutes remaining when French substitute Yan Valery sent a shot through the legs of charging Liverpool goalie Alisson.

The ball was rolling too slowly, however, and Liverpool defender Jordan Henderson was able to race back and clear it away near the goal line.

“I cannot say how proud I am for my team. I think the mentality we showed was the key to winning today … We defended unbelievably against a top quality team. I don’t know if we had more mentality than the opponent, but we wanted it more I think,” the Saints’ Austrian manager, Ralph Hasenhuttl, said afterward.

With the loss, Liverpool remains tied at the top of the standings with Manchester United on points (33), although the Reds have the edge in goal difference.

Southampton, meanwhile, snapped their four-game winless streak in the Premier League and moved into sixth place with 29 points. EFE-EPA

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