SOUTHAMPTON — Not one, not two, not three but four penalty calls did not go Southampton’s way on Sunday in their 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool at St. Mary’s.
Kevin Friend won no friends among the home fans as Filip Djuricic went down easily after 17 seconds and minutes later appeared to be taken clean out by Joe Allen. No penalty.
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Later in the first half Eljero Elia went clean through on goal and Simon Mignolet appeared to block a shot with his hand outside the box and then Dejan Lovren also handled the ball in the box but Friend didn’t see it. Liverpool punished Southampton with a ruthless display, as Saints had over 60 percent of the ball but failed to fire in the final third as they’ve scored just once in their last four games.
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Speaking about the officiating after the match, Koeman had the following to say.
“I think the ref made one big mistake with the second penalty,” Koeman said, with restraint. “I don’t understand why he didn’t whistle… Maybe a little bit unlucky about the decisions of the referee in the first half. They scored a great goal and then it is always difficult again after that goal.”
While Koeman believes the offensive struggles — Saints have now failed to score in three games at home and have just one goal in their last four — are slightly worrying, his team are continuing to create chances but confidence is low.
“Until half time we played very good football, we had the best chances in the game. I don’t understand the second situation in the game because that is a clear penalty,” Koeman said. “I am proud of the team the way we play today. We know that in the last few games we are struggling in scoring goals. If you play three times at home in a row and you don’t score it is difficult to win games. That’s maybe about the confidence of the players.”
As for Djuricic (the man at the center of two early penalty calls for Saints) he believes his side should have had two spot kicks.
“We could have had two penalties but the referee didn’t whistle,” Djurcic said. “The first one I feel the contact, it was light contact but I fell down. The second one was more a penalty than the first one for sure. I feel his hand on my shoulder and I fell down. The first one was little bit light and this is England so there are a different type of criteria for the penalty, but the second one definitely.”
Saints have hit a bad run at just the wrong time of the season but this performance was all to similar to their display in a recent home defeat to Swansea. Dominating the ball but then seeing things falter in the final third has been the theme in recent weeks. Eljero Elia, Sadio Mane, Djuricic, Graziano Pelle and others just couldn’t get free or finish chances when they arrived. With 12 games to go Arsenal are third on 48 points, Manchester United are on fourth on 47, while Saints sit in fifth on 45 points. Liverpool are now in sixth on 44 points and Tottenham are seventh on 43. This race for the final two UEFA Champions League places will go down to the wire and Koeman still believes his side can make it despite a disappointing home defeat.
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Another interesting note came from Koeman’s presser as he confirmed that Senegalese winger Sadio Mane was left out of the starting lineup due to turning up late for the prematch meal. Mane looked lively when coming off the bench in the second half, but Koeman was not impressed.
“He was too late,” Koeman confirmed. “He was 25-30 minutes late for the pre-meal and we have rules and instructions with the players. Everybody can be late one day in the morning. But you can’t be late at 1 p.m. when you have to play against Liverpool. The explanation is between the player and the coach, but he was too late. I can’t and I won’t accept that.”