There might have been some alarm in the Liverpool camp when captain James Milner’s 66th minute penalty was saved. It was an omen of sorts—the Reds had never lost a match in which the 31-year-old had scored. Milner’s penalty miss however – a case of being well saved rather than poorly struck – did not dishearten the hosts on Sunday, as they rallied strongly to come out with a goalless draw against Southampton.
For the record, this was Milner’s first failure at a spot-kick since November 2009, back when he played for Aston Villa. This was also the first time in nine attempts that Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster saved a Milner penalty.
It was clear from early in the match that the Saints had travelled to Anfield without any intent of scoring. Instead, the visitors were content with focusing on repelling the constant waves of Liverpool attacks. So much so, that Southampton has failed to hit a single shot on target in either of the two Premier League games they’ve played against Liverpool this season.
On the night, Liverpool produced a performance that saw them take up 65 per cent of the possession and fired as many as 17 shots at Forster’s goal – eight being on target. Over the two matches, at St Mary’s Stadium and at Anfield, Liverpool has notched up 32 shots on goal.
The result helped Liverpool overtake Manchester City in the Premier League standings, taking them back to the third spot with 70 points in 36 games. The goalless draw has also done its bit to make the final stages of the season even more exciting, as the top four candidates for next season’s Champions League are still to be decided.
Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are the only teams assured of a spot in Europe. For the remaining two spots, Liverpool is in a tussle with the two clubs from Manchester. While the draw has taken the Reds to the top of that pile, City trail by a point and have a game in hand. Manchester United are five points adrift of Liverpool with just a game less played.
At this stage, Liverpool is almost assured of a spot in Europe next season, in either the Europa League or the prestigious Champions League. The Reds will be hoping to bounce back to secure a berth in the latter.