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Milner: Liverpool must learn to close out games to avoid ‘mental problem’

Liverpool vice-captain James Milner accepts the players have to find a way to close out winning situations to avoid it becoming a mental problem.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2015: Liverpool's James Milner in action against Everton during the Premier League match at Goodison Park, the 225th Merseyside Derby. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The team registered an eighth draw in nine matches when they were pegged back to 1-1 by Southampton on Sunday and, like on five of the previous occasions, it was their inability to hold onto a lead which cost them.

Manager Jurgen Klopp, who is still looking for his first win after three draws since taking over, noted the issue in his post-match comments when he said: “We didn’t believe any more that we could turn this game (after conceding the equaliser), and that is a problem.”

Milner, leading the side in the absence of the injured Jordan Henderson, admits it will get worse unless the Reds can break their habit.

“That’s something that we have to address and make sure it doesn’t become a mental problem,” he said. “It is frustrating. It was a disappointing way to draw.

“We didn’t have too many chances after they scored and that was another disappointment.

“We didn’t react and mentally we didn’t have that reaction to go again after they scored.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 25, 2015: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel looks dejected as his side concede a late equaliser to Southampton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Substitute Christian Benteke looked like he had settled a turgid encounter with a thumping 77th-minute header, but Sadio Mane forced home an 86th-minute equaliser from close range – only to spoil his afternoon by getting sent off for a second yellow card in stoppage time.

Klopp was disappointed with the concession of the goal, which came from a free-kick at which they were not strong enough defensively in the air.

The German recognises this is a problem which stems back to long before he took over, but has urged the players to stop allowing themselves to be worried by what has dogged them in the past when it comes to set-pieces.

“You hope nothing happens when a ball goes in the air – I have seen things like this not only with my team but other teams. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Klopp said.

“You see the ball in the air and you think, ‘Oh my God’. That is what you have to change.

“I hope I am not the only person in the stadium who felt it was not the end of the world.

“We can work with this result. We can work with this performance of the team.

“If I had the feeling these guys were not ready for fighting then it would be really bad news, but everyone saw how ready they are and that is the most important thing.”

Klopp has stressed since replacing Brendan Rodgers at the helm just over a fortnight ago that there will be no quick turnaround in fortunes.

He knows it will take time to implement his methods, but Milner believes they are edging closer to where he wants them to be.

“We’re not that far away,” the England midfielder added. “We’ve only lost two games this year. We have drawn eight of the last nine or something ridiculous like that.

“We’re not a million miles away. We know we need to improve and know we can improve.

“We feel we can perform a lot better but we’re not losing the games, looking on the positive side.”

Benteke’s third goal of the season was a powerful header from Milner’s cross, and his team-mate knows getting the Belgium international back from a hamstring injury which sidelined him for a month will boost Liverpool’s chances going forward.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 25, 2015: Liverpool's Christian Benteke celebrates scoring the first goal against Southampton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And that does not even take into account the missing Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings.

“It wasn’t bad, was it?” Milner said of Benteke’s goal. “We don’t want to talk too much about injuries. It’s an easy excuse and we don’t want to go down that route – we’re better than that.

“We have quality players regardless of our injury list, but to get Christian back is great.

“The strikers we have at the club offer different things. They’re a good mix, and there will be a lot of changes to the way we play.”

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