Southampton midfielder Adam Lallana admits that many of the squad were overawed by the occasion during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Liverpool.
Saints succumbed to a first-half Daniel Agger header, but the scoreline flattered the visitors with Brendan Rodgers’ side boasting nearly 70 per cent of possession and testing goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga with 11 shots on target.
However, the club captain believes Southampton improved in the second half and were unlucky not to snatch a draw.
“Maybe the occasion got to a few of us today in the first half,” Lallana told the Daily Echo.
“It took us a while to settle. We weren’t our usual selves. But second half we were a lot better, and while it was 1-0 anything could happen. We wanted to stay in the game to the death. We made a couple of changes and Jay [Rodriguez] came on and was lively, but we just didn’t get that clear-cut chance that we wanted and, obviously, we’ve walked away with nothing.
“We’re disappointed the way we went about our first-half performance – whether we showed them a bit too much respect or we just didn’t believe in our own ability as much as we should have done. We were hoping to get into halftime goalless, but Agger scored a great header, and it was probably nothing less than they deserved really.
“But second half was a lot more of an assured performance. We kind of sat off them a little bit and let them play out rather than trying to press them, and we had a couple of chances on the counter attack and we were in it to the last minute, which is what we wanted to do at half-time. On another day we might have nicked a goal.”
The Saints skipper has been encouraged by the team’s overall performances this season after gaining promotion from the Championship but stressed the importance of the busy Christmas schedule to the club’s chances of staying in the division, with Southampton sitting just inside the relegation zone.
“We’re making strides forward, there’s no doubt about that,” said Lallana.
“Christmas is going to be massive. We’ve got a huge game against Reading. It’s important we pick up points at home, especially against the teams around us, and we’re focusing on that now.
“We’ll put this game to bed, and it’s a huge game next weekend.”