Blast of reality sees Liverpool crash back to earth
IF anybody around Anfield was getting too excited about four successive victories and the outside chance of a top-four finish, this defeat at Southampton was a blast of cold reality.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers saw it as a useful reminder that rebuilding a team is not an overnight job and, while he will not be going back to the drawing board, he recognises that plenty of work remains to be done.
Unfortunately, that will have to wait while all but seven of his squad disappear on the international break, but he hopes they can use some of the time to assess the step back taken at St Mary's after what had appeared to be several steps forward.
"Maybe you've just got to go away and reflect on the last few weeks," he said. "It's important for us to maintain the efforts that we have been putting in that have got us results. We let those standards slip a wee bit, so we just need to get back now and refocus.
"The players have been outstanding. This was just one of those days. Every team has them. We just didn't perform anywhere near what we have been. Having said that, we could have scored three or four goals. So we just have to go away now, lick our wounds."
Liverpool had won their previous three league matches but found Southampton a different proposition.
The hosts' expansive, high-energy pressing game kept Liverpool pinned back, with Steven Gerrard rarely able to move forward to shape the attack.
Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino, whose plan worked to perfection, beamed afterwards: "It goes to show football is based on your mental attitude. We have the right mentality and we just have to make sure that in every game we have the same hunger."
Jay Rodriguez, who laid on the opening goal for Morgan Schneiderlin before crowning Southampton's afternoon with a superb solo effort, provided an accolade for the manager.
"He's had a massive effect on us. The belief we've got is fantastic," Rodriguez said.
"We don't give anyone respect."
Yet, Southampton endangered all their good work. After opening up a two-goal lead from Ricky Lambert's deflected free-kick, they allowed Liverpool's Phillipe Coutinho to hit back seconds before half-time. (© Independent News Service)