Liverpool fell to their second defeat of the season with a 1-0 reversal away to Southampton.
Danny Ings early goal was enough to seal the hosts win as the Reds — who owned the possession and territorial stats — failed to turn their dominance into goals at St. Mary’s.
It was the third bad performance on the trot for Jurgen Klopp’s team, who drew with West Brom and Newcastle in the preceding games, and it was his attack — and not the defence, which featured Jordan Henderson at centre half — that let him down.
Sadio Mane was busy, if ineffective, and both Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah were peripheral to the extent that you would almost forget they were playing, despite Liverpool having upwards of 80% possession.
Right from the first whistle, the sense was that the visitors would be slow out of the blocks. Thiago, who started only his second game after joining the club in September, was booked after giving away a free-kick.
The Saints, whose plan was to clearly sit deep and look to frustrate the champions made the most of the opportunity and James Ward Prowse cutely played an against the grain free-kick. The dozy Trent Alexander Arnold didn’t track the run of Ings and the striker, against his former club, lifted the ball over Alisson for 1-0.
Liverpool huffed and puffed in an attempt to get their way back into the game, but all of their attempts were poor. Passes were under hit or overcooked, movement was slack and the array of bad first touches belonged in a museum of horrors. The Reds went into the break without a shot on target.
The visitors at least started the second half in better, quicker fashion and laid siege to the Southampton goal. The left-hand side was utilised extensively with Andrew Robertson and Mane the chief architects of attacking play.
Mane had a shot expertly blocked by Jack Stephens in the box, several crosses cleared away by last-ditch dives and blocks and, inexplicably, was denied a penalty when Kyle Walker Peters — who got away unchecked for fouling the Senegalese star on umpteen occasions — fouled him in the box.
The Reds had another penalty shout when Georginio Wijnaldum’s shot was blocked by Jan Bednarek, but, in truth, it would have offered a scantly deserved opportunity to draw level.
Klopp rang the changes when he brought on Xherdan Shaqiri and James Milner for the underperforming duo of Trent Alexander Arnold — whose form has notably dipped — and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, whose showing at his former club was marred by heavy touches and poor passes.
On and on the Reds pushed, but it took until the 75th minute for their first shot on target; Mane’s drive was low and soft and in the routine bracket for Fraser Forster, the Saints back up keeper after first choice Alex McCarthy pissed out due to a positive covid test.
Liverpool almost conceded a second when Yann Valery poked the ball at goal after Alisson had rushed off his line to sweep up, but Henderson cleared from near the line and the Reds escaped a second goal.
There was to be no second goal of any kind as the toothless visitors fell to a defeat that gives Manchester United the chance to move above them at the top of the table if they win their game in hand.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Henderson, Fabinho, Robertson; Thiago, Oxlade Chamberlain, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Replacements: Milner for Alexander Arnold, Shaqiri for Oxlade Chamberlain.
Subs not used; C.Kelleher, R.Williams, N.Williams, D.Origi, T.Minamino, N.Phillips, C.Jones