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Liverpool’s frustrating streak continued as they slid into a 1-0 Premier League loss to Southampton, giving Manchester United and the chasing group further impetus.
After drawing their last two games of 2020 against West Brom and Newcastle United, Liverpool were beaten by an early goal from former striker Danny Ings at St Mary’s.
They remain on top, ahead of United in goal difference, having played one more match before a decisive clash between the two old rivals at Anfield on 17 January.
Ings’ first career goal in the Premier League came after Liverpool intercepted a James Ward-Prowse free kick.
Southampton could have increased their lead before the break, but although champions Jurgen Klopp dominated after the restart, they couldn’t avoid a second league defeat of the season.
Liverpool were boosted by the return of Thiago Alcántara, but it was the lack of the Spanish international that resulted in Southampton’s opener in the second minute.
Ward-Prowse’s ingenious free kick stunned the visiting defense and, with Alisson stranded, Ings delicately threw his 50th Premier League goal.
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 4, 2021
In his first Premier League appearance since May 2019, Fraser Forster was defeated by Roberto Firmino moments later, but the Brazilian forward dragged his effort.
Moussa Djenepo succumbed to a hamstring injury with half an hour of play and his replacement Nathan Tella was inches from the first high-level goal when he swerved from the right post.
Liverpool wanted a penalty when Giorgino Wijnaldum’s shot hit Jack Stephens’s arm at point-blank range, but Andre Marriner was unfazed.
Stephens made another vital block in the 58th minute, diving in to deny Sadio Mane as Liverpool turned the screw.
However, despite Liverpool’s dominance, Forster didn’t have to make a stop until the 75th minute, when he hit Mane’s scrape shot.
Jordan Henderson’s latest punt from Yan Valery’s effort kept Liverpool in the match late in the match, but Southampton held firm to end a four-match winless streak and reduce emotional Ralph Hasenhuttl to tears of joy at the full time.
What does that mean? Blunt Reds fail as Southampton makes history
Liverpool put together 16 attempts, but only one of them hit the mark, and for the third game in a row Klopp’s team failed to turn their dominance into three points.
The Reds are just four points behind Southampton, which is in sixth place, and became the first team in Premier League history to beat all seven of the competition’s winners on the season after winning the title.
Ings is only getting better
Since Hasenhuttl took over at Southampton in December 2018, Ings has been directly involved in 39 Premier League goals, scoring 31 times and providing seven assists.
Ings suffered a hitting streak at Anfield but came back to haunt his former club and end a four-game scoreless streak.
– Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) January 4, 2021
Trials and Tribulations for Trent
Trent Alexander-Arnold has been a fundamental part of Liverpool’s success with Klopp, but he became an exhibition to forget on the South Coast.
Unable to cope with the handover of Ward-Prowse for the Ings winner, the full-back gave up possession 38 times, 10 times more than any other Liverpool player, before being retired after 77 minutes.
Opta key facts
– Liverpool have failed to score in consecutive Premier League matches for the first time since May 2018, having found the net in each of their previous 21 league matches.
– After having eight shots on goal in their 7-0 win over Crystal Palace, Liverpool have managed just seven attempts on goal in their last three Premier League winless games.
– Ward-Prowse has provided four assists in the Premier League this season; in 2014-15 alone (six) did the England international provide more in a single season in the top flight.
– Forster kept his first clean sheet in the Premier League since October 2017. This was his 13th appearance in the competition since that shutout in a 1-0 win over West Brom.
Liverpool were thrashed 7-2 at Aston Villa earlier in the season, and Klopp’s side will seek revenge at Villa Park in the FA Cup on Friday. Southampton receives Shrewsbury Town a day later.