Southampton - Southampton edged one step closer to the
League Cup final as Nathan Redmond's cool finish secured a 1-0 win over
Liverpool in the semi-final first leg on Wednesday.
Claude Puel's side went in front through Redmond's first
half strike at St Mary's and only a strong display from Liverpool goalkeeper
Loris Karius prevented Southampton from winning by more.
Southampton haven't reached the League Cup final since 1979
when they were beaten by Nottingham Forest.
But by ending a run of four games without a win in all
competitions they are now within touching distance of facing Manchester United
or Hull at Wembley.
With United having won the first leg against Hull 2-0,
Liverpool would love to face their old rivals at Wembley, especially after
losing to Manchester City on penalties in last season's final.
But Jurgen Klopp's team, without a win in their last three
games, will need to improve significantly to overturn the deficit at Anfield in
the second leg on January 25.
Klopp had fielded the youngest team in Liverpool's history
for Sunday's embarrassing FA Cup draw against fourth-tier Plymouth at Anfield,
but his senior stars fared no better on their return to the line-up.
With Senegal winger Sadio Mane away at the Africa Cup of
Nations, Daniel Sturridge started in attack as Klopp made eight changes.
Klopp's team had routed Southampton 6-1 in the League Cup
quarter-finals last season and, with the hosts missing dropped captain Jose
Fonte, a lively start suggested another emphatic display was possible.
Former Southampton defender Nathaniel Clyne had Liverpool's
first effort when his goalbound strike was blocked by Steven Davis.
Roberto Firmino had an even better chance when Adam Lallana
knocked a high ball down for the Brazil forward, but his powerful shot was
close enough to Fraser Forster for the goalkeeper to tip over.
But Liverpool's aggressive intent was undermined by their
lack of focus at the back and Redmond, in yards of space at the far post, drew
a fine stop from Karius in Southampton's first incisive attack.
Puel's side weren't to be denied for long and in the 20th
minute a woeful miskick from Reds defender Ragnar Klavan allowed Jay Rodriguez
to thread a pass to Redmond, who advanced into the penalty area before slotting
into the far corner for his first goal since October.
Despite dominating possession for much of the first half,
Liverpool were toothless in attack and the eight-time League Cup winners almost
fell further behind in the 43rd minute.
Once again it was slack Liverpool defending that let in the
hosts, with Dusan Tadic gifted time and space for a low cross to Redmond, who
should have done better than blast straight at Karius from close-range.
By the time Lallana snatched at a half-chance early in the
second half, Klopp had seen enough and he sent on Brazil forward Philippe Coutinho
for his first appearance following a seven-week absence with an ankle injury.
Yet, with Coutinho showing a few signs of rust on his
return, Liverpool still lacked a cutting edge.
Coutinho's presence couldn't cure Liverpool's defensive
failings in any case and when no-one tracked Cedric's run into the penalty area
the visitors were fortunate Southampton's right-back shot hurriedly into the
Redmond almost doubled Southampton's lead in the closing
moments, but his lobbed effort hit the bar and was cleared by Lallana.