Football

Hasenhuettl cries tears of joy as Southampton beat Liverpool

EPL
SOUTHAMPTON LIVERPOOL
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(Danny Ings 2)  

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuettl shed tears of joy and collapsed to his knees at the final whistle after an early Danny Ings strike helped the Saints beat champions Liverpool 1-0 in the English Premier League on Tuesday morning (Jan 5, Singapore time).

The Austrian’s emotional celebrations might have led some fans to think that Southampton had just secured the EPL title.

But as wins over Liverpool are a rare occurrence for the Saints, with the last one coming in the league almost five years ago, it was an occasion to savour for Hasenhuettl who took charge of the south-coast club in 2018.

“There were tears in my eyes – because of the wind!”, Hasenhuettl jokingly told BBC Sport.

“When you see our guys fighting with everything they have, it makes me really proud. You need to have the perfect game against Liverpool and I think we did have that.”

Hasenhuettl’s team were forced to defend for long periods in the second half, and he admitted that it was deep into stoppage time before he felt that his side could get a result.

“It felt like we were under massive pressure and the defending around the box was the key today – then still try and play football. We did it in a good way,” he said.

In contrast, his Liverpool counterpart Juergen Klopp was left extremely frustrated after his attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane failed to find the net despite dominating possession in the second half.

“What was disappointing? How long have we got?” he told the BBC. “The start, obviously, not only the goal but the start in general. Congratulations to Southampton, they deserved it.”

The 53-year-old German said that his side knew what to expect from Southampton but were caught out in the opening exchanges and found themselves unable to recover.

“At the beginning, how we played, where we lost the balls – it’s not rocket science. We should have done much better. We played into their hands with the start,” he said.

“These are outstanding players, but they were not ready from the start.”

SEARCH FOR A CENTRE-BACK

A first league defeat in three months may hasten Liverpool’s search for a centre-back in the January transfer window.

Without the injured Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, Klopp started two of his first-choice midfielders from their title-winning campaign, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, together at the heart of his defence.

Southampton had not scored in their last three games to temper their hopes of a push for European football, but took just two minutes to break the deadlock in style through former Liverpool striker Ings.

Trent Alexander-Arnold did not deal with James Ward-Prowse’s angled free-kick into the box and Ings perfectly hooked his shot over Alisson into the far corner.

Southampton had key absentees themselves with goalkeeper Alex McCarthy missing due to a positive test for coronavirus, while Oriol Romeu, Jannik Vestergaard and Che Adams were out injured.

Fraser Forster was making his first Saints appearance since May 2019, but the former England international was rarely tested to earn his clean sheet.

‘Perfect gameplan’

The visitors could easily have found themselves 2-0 down before the break when Southampton substitute Nathan Tella was inches away from his first senior goal.

If Klopp’s men were too passive in the first half, they started the second half with the intensity they have made their trademark in recent seasons as Southampton were pinned inside their own half.

Mane was the visitors’ biggest threat on his return to St Mary’s as Jack Stephens made a last-ditch challenge to block his route to goal before Kyle Walker-Peters was lucky to escape without conceding a penalty for obstructing another burst from the Senegalese into the box.

Thiago Alcantara was making just his second Liverpool start since a much-anticipated move from Bayern Munich, but even the Spaniard’s range of passing could not cut through Southampton’s determined defence.

Mane had Liverpool’s only shot on target 15 minutes from time when his tame effort was easily held by Forster low to his left.

Southampton could have sealed a huge win moments later when Alisson was caught well off his line by Yan Valery, whose shot lacked the power to beat Henderson in a race to the goal line.

Liverpool so often dug themselves out of problems with late goals in romping to the title last season, but have failed to do so over the festive period, also dropping points against struggling West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle.

United and Manchester City now hold the upper hand in the title race as they can both move ahead of Liverpool should they win their games in hand. – AFP, REUTERS

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