Abuja – Southampton hold a slender 1-0 advantage in the EFL Cup semi-final after a fully deserved first-leg victory over Liverpool at St Mary’s on Wednesday.
Nathan Redmond’s cool finish from Jay Rodriguez’s pass gave Saints a crucial lead to take to Anfield on Jan. 25.
But Southampton can count themselves unlucky not to be in complete control of this battle for a place at Wembley.
Liverpool’s much-criticised goalkeeper Loris Karius was one of very few in Jurgen Klopp’s side to distinguish himself amid a shocking performance, making two fine first-half saves from goalscorer Redmond.
He was helpless late on as Redmond threatened once more, but Liverpool enjoyed more good fortune as his effort came back off the crossbar.
Southampton’s recent form has been indifferent but manager Claude Puel would have been delighted with their display at St Mary’s.
After a brief early spell of Liverpool pressure, when Roberto Firmino tested Fraser Forster, Southampton were completely untroubled throughout an impressive performance.
Saints were sharp in the tackle, more assured in possession and a continual threat through Redmond and the industrious Rodriguez.
They will be left, however, with a tinge of regret in spite of an excellent, fully merited result that gives them real reason for optimism for the second leg at Anfield.
Karius and the woodwork kept them at bay and they had many other opportunities to produce a scoreline reflecting their superiority.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Southampton could have slammed the door on Liverpool — instead it remains ajar.
Karius has had to undergo a severe examination of his goalkeeping credentials and endure heavy public criticism in the early months of his Liverpool career.
Klopp placed great faith in the 23-year-old German, signed from his former club Mainz in a £4.75m deal this summer — eventually choosing him ahead of established first-choice Simon Mignolet.
The decision backfired and he was forced to drop Karius after two poor, error-strewn performances in the 4-3 loss at Bournemouth and the 2-2 home draw with West Ham.
Klopp has never lost belief, however, choosing Karius as his Cup keeper — and he was rewarded here with an outstanding display, especially with two excellent saves from Redmond.
He is responsible for Liverpool still being in this tie after a shocking display.