Liverpool draw again under Klopp as Southampton earn a 1-1 draw at Anfield
LIVERPOOL, England -- Three thoughts on a third straight draw for Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager as Sunday's match ended 1-1 with Southampton.
1. Mane denies Klopp a first win
At last, the moment came. For the first time, Jurgen Klopp's new Liverpool were leading in a match thanks to a pearl of a header from Christian Benteke from an equally superb James Milner cross. The new manager celebrated with some frenzied chest-beating after a moment, which lit up a 0-0 draw previously as undistinguished as the stalemate at Old Trafford it followed.
But then came Sadio Mane's strike from close range after Liverpool poorly defended a James Ward-Prowse free-kick, a reminder that any Klopp revolution is going to take time, especially with the tools available to him. Until that 77th minute goal, Liverpool's chances had been of the type that would have been spectacular strikes had they come off. Philippe Coutinho had a number of shots blocked, while both James Milner and Alberto Moreno slashed wide from difficult angles.
Problems in both defence and attack ultimately led to Brendan Rodgers' demise, but Klopp has never claimed to be a miracle worker. Scorelines of 0-0 against Tottenham, 1-1 against Rubin Kazan and 1-1 on Sunday are not disasters, but each performance has seen Liverpool noticeably fade as each match draws on, badly lacking the quality to offset tiring legs.
It may be of concern that Coutinho has struggled to make much of an impact in each of Klopp's trio of matches. Overlapping full-back Moreno was the most effective creative outlet, but unfortunately finished and delivered his final passes like the defender he is by trade. His team's top performer, Moreno, showed his defensive proficiency by robbing Mane in the second half with a last-ditch tackle when Southampton's Senegalese speedster looked to have a clear run on goal.
Until Benteke's arrival after 45 minutes of struggle from Divock Origi, Liverpool utterly lacked anything up front. Pace is lacking among the players available to Klopp, so power would have to do instead. Power appeared to have secured a first win until a moment of both invention from Southampton and distraction from Liverpool.
And Klopp must keep waiting for his first win as Liverpool manager.
2. Progress will take time
Liverpool is a club under heavy reconstruction in a couple of senses. Behind Anfield's Main Stand is a towering exoskeleton where 8,500 seats will eventually be added to the stadium capacity. Meanwhile, Klopp is teaching his new charges how to play to his specifications. He had selected the same team that started his inauguration at Tottenham last Saturday and with only one change from Thursday's damp 1-1 draw with Rubin Kazan, Liverpool's players were having to "gegenpress" for the third time in eight days.
Not that the new man has much choice. Daniel Sturridge's latest setback (a knee problem) meant that the rookie talent of Origi was his solitary striker option with Danny Ings out for the season and Benteke only able to begin on the bench. Origi was willing, yet struggled in those vital moments when Liverpool needed him to hold up the ball. It was little surprise to see him withdrawn at half-time.
Klopp himself is taking time to familiarise himself with his new home. Before the match, he stayed on his feet throughout "You'll Never Walk Alone" just as the fans behind him were, though without a scarf in his hand. His seat in the dugout is in danger of gathering dust: The German maintained his usual habit of standing on the very edge of his technical area, signalling and whistling frantic instructions.
His maiden Anfield Premier League match saw Liverpool begin each half with the bustle that is expected from a Klopp-coached team, though not quite the high-octane stuff of last week at White Hart Lane. The necessary levels of fitness will require plenty of work on the Melwood training ground to achieve.
Much else besides is needed for Klopp to be able to replicate his successful Borussia Dortmund team's blur of neon, and it seems like home fans recognise that. Not many of them appeared to be getting too excited and the pain of so much dampened expectation over recent years has given rise to a sensible degree of caution. Signs of progress and moments like Benteke's glorious goal will do for now.
3. Saints' patience pays off
Had Klopp not been such a golden ticket, then Ronald Koeman is the type of manager Liverpool might have looked to. After all, Southampton to Liverpool has become a popular pathway.
Adam Lallana, a veteran of the Saints' journey from League One to established Premier League club was constantly booed by the away fans, while Nathaniel Clyne (sold this summer) got a rather warmer reception. "He'll only last 60 minutes," mocked the away fans when their former captain was replaced by Roberto Firmino after 67 minutes.
Lallana's crime is a purported threat to go on strike if his 2014 move did not go through, something he denies, but the fans may one day prefer to recall his part in the club's rebirth instead -- his £25 million sale funded the arrival of the likes of Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic and Mane, the attacking trio who were a constant menace to Liverpool. Mane's speed is electric, his live-wire movement into space making him hugely difficult to mark. His goal showed an ability to sniff out chances on an afternoon he was a true pest to Liverpool.
Southampton had looked more effective in pressing than their opponent, especially in the first half, and seemed good for at least a point until Benteke's strike. Once Liverpool gained the head of steam that followed the break, the visitors became more circumspect, sitting deep and looking for the counter attack.
Benteke's opener, which came from attacking the space between Virgil Van Dijk and Jose Fonte, forced them to chase an equaliser. Mane, later sent off for a second bookable offence, grabbed it, cued up by two second-half subs in Gaston Ramirez and Ward-Prowse. The point means that Koeman's team are still unbeaten away from home this season.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.