[Southampton 1 – 0 Liverpool]

What a way to open 2021, eh?

For the Saints, that is.

It meant so much to Ralph Hasenhuttl, who could not stop tears of – elation? tension? exhaustion? probably a bit of all of those – when the final whistle sounded. It meant so much to Danny Ings, who has become the fearsome goal machine we always thought he could be, in the process allowing Southampton to recoup a bit of the, uhh, talent acquisition imbalance that seems to have been building in the opposite direction between the two sides. His goal was fantastic by any measure, highlighting his awareness and skill. It meant so much to everyone at St. Mary’s, and as frustrating as watching this game was, I just can’t find it in my heart to be overly upset.

Especially as we earned ourselves this big fat zero.

Just like the last two games, Liverpool simply wasn’t in the mood to shoot on goal. It’s not entirely clear what’s going on, but at this point, the top of the table is no longer in the merseysider’s grip, and should they fail to fix it over the next couple of weeks, the Reds may face the even more painful result of having that incredible unbeaten at-home streak broken by their in-form arch-rivals, that other red team who had previously, as one Alex Ferguson was happy to suggest, knocked Liverpool off its perch.

Now wouldn’t that be ironic.

At least the last outing at Newcastle felt like a matter of equal parts bad luck and bad form. Today’s loss was firmly planted in the latter end of the two, even counting the first twenty minutes or so of the second half, in which Liverpool at least showed a spark of desire. Otherwise, from a team that was looking good for a second consecutive title just a couple of weeks earlier following a convincing thumping at Crystal Palace, the Reds today looked like a team that might not even be worth a top four spot by the time the season wraps up.

Picking a man-of-the-match in a game like this is painful, as my tendency is to want to always give it to someone on the winning side, and Southampton’s centerbacks were both good for it. Would picking Ingsy count as a Liverpool player? Or maybe I should award it to Trent, who played a torrid game and needlessly gave the ball to the Saints so many times, one could be forgiven for thinking he was playing for whom ultimately emerged as the winning side. But I will refrain from either of these choices and instead point to the one Liverpool player who still managed to play an excellent game. Gini Wijnaldum was simply a notch above the rest and better than anyone else on the pitch. On either side.

So about that contract…

I suppose that one can summarize this game (as well as the last two) this way: winning football games is extremely hard without scoring goals, and scoring goals, in turn, tends to be very difficult without shots on goal. There, surely now you feel elucidated, yes?

You’re quite welcome.