Daniel Sturridge fails to fire, Liverpool find themselves lucky to lose 1-0
Liverpool turned in their worst performance of the season and will be relieved to have only lost 1-0 against a fired up, well-organised and lively Southampton on Wednesday.
Nathan Redmond's goal gives the Saints something to cling onto in the EFL semifinal return leg at Anfield, and unless Liverpool buck up their ideas they can forget about a possible Wembley date with arch rivals Manchester United.
Philippe Coutinho returning to action is the biggest, but it's also a huge positive for Liverpool that they only trail 1-0 and have another game to put it right.
Liverpool's players lost their individual battles and also they lost the collective one. There was a lack of pace, they were knocked off the ball far too easily and at no point did it ever look like they would conjure up an equaliser. Southampton looked like they had three or four more players on the field than Liverpool at times.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Selecting Lucas and Emre Can together resulted in a predictably ponderous midfield, and it also reduced the effectiveness of Adam Lallana, who was shunted into the front three to accommodate Lucas. Coutinho was introduced at the right time, but Jurgen Klopp maybe should have given Divock Origi more than 10 minutes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Loris Karius, 7 -- A confidence-boosting display from the young German, who was easily Liverpool's best player on a disappointing night. He made a fine save to deny Redmond but was powerless to stop the forward opening the scoring a minute later. He pulled off another good close-range stop to prevent the Saints from extending their lead and looked assured throughout.
DF Nathaniel Clyne, 5 -- An uncharacteristically sloppy showing from the right-back, who was wasteful in possession at times and never looked comfortable. Failed to track Redmond's run for the only goal of the game.
DF Dejan Lovren, 6 -- The only outfield player who performed anywhere near his usual standard. Liverpool looked shaky at the back all evening but it wasn't due to anything Lovren did. Made an important -- albeit slightly fortuitous -- goal-line clearance to deny Redmond adding a second late on.
DF Ragnar Klavan, 5 -- Shaky in the first half and made the error that led to the only goal of the game when he missed a routine clearance that allowed Jay Rodriguez to collect the ball and tee up Redmond. Improved after the break but will not be pleased his performance.
DF James Milner, 5 -- Fought until the very last, even controlling a ball with his face as he lay on the floor battling for possession. For all his admirable effort though he was another who was a long way off his best at both ends of the pitch.
MF Lucas Leiva, 5 -- Something of a surprise inclusion, the Brazilian was far from being the worst Liverpool player on the field, but he was left embarrassed late on when Shane Long surged past him and almost created a second goal for Redmond.
MF Emre Can, 3 -- Produced a pass that led to a chance for Roberto Firmino, but after that might as well not have even been on the pitch for all the impact he made. His performance was summed up when he lost possession cheaply and then feigned injury. Nobody was fooled.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 4 -- Ran around a lot, got on the ball quite a bit but did nothing with it and seemed to be crowded out by two or three players every time before he was replaced by Coutinho after 65 minutes.
FW Adam Lallana, 4 -- His transformation from big money flop to key player in a title chasing team has been largely due to the positional change that moved him from the wing into a deeper role. He was back on the wing and once again looked like the player who struggled to impress in his first couple of seasons.
FW Daniel Sturridge, 3 -- Received absolutely no service at all but, even allowing for that, he simply has to do better than this. Virgil Van Dijk dominated the striker from start to finish, whether it was aerially or on the floor, the Dutch defender won everything and Sturridge eventually seemed to lose heart and resorted to throwing himself to the ground hoping for sympathy from the referee. The one sight of goal he had came late on when he ballooned a 25-yard shot high and wide, which summed up his night.
FW Roberto Firmino, 5 -- His form in recent months has to be somewhat concerning for Klopp, as the Brazilian is a key player in Liverpool's setup and they need him playing well. You can never question his effort, and he ran himself into the ground in this game but aside from one decent snap shot that was saved by Fraser Forster, he never threatened.
FW Philippe Coutinho, 6 -- Liverpool will be delighted to see him back. He looked fairly sharp on the ball but his shooting was, shall we say, a little rusty.
FW Divock Origi, NR -- Given 10 minutes at the end but made little impression and was usually crowded out whenever he received the ball.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.