COMMENT: The Reds rolled out the welcome mat for Southampton to walk all over them and turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 Premier League victory on Sunday afternoon
There was the best of Liverpool on display and the absolute worst. There was Jurgen Klopp passionately fist-pumping and then furiously spitting as his fume filled St Mary’s.
His side rolled out the welcome mat for Southampton to not only get back into a Premier League game they were 2-0 down and out in, but to win it 3-2. There will be no wondering how it happened; quite simply, Liverpool stood back and allowed it to.
The Reds had been unbeaten this month. They had scorched Manchester City, exorcised ghosts against Crystal Palace, and become the first English club to eliminate Manchester United from Europe. Liverpool were marching on, until they let the Saints march in.
There were times during the first half on Sunday afternoon when it was hard not to rewind to Steven Gerrard’s declaration in March 2014 against the same opposition. The former captain wished teams “all the best” if they invited the Reds to counter.
There were shades of that title-chasing Liverpool as they poured forward with intent and ambition. The Merseysiders could have been four goals to the good after another Philippe Coutinho blockbuster from distance and a stellar Daniel Sturridge finish sent them on their way.
But the second half served as a reminder of the club’s flaws as they were slow to react, exceedingly sloppy and were too submissive. Southampton were up for a fight after the interval and the visitors were not.
Ronald Koeman brought on Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane before introducing James Ward-Prowse later on and the trio helped swing the tide in Southampton’s favour.
Liverpool’s substitutes altered things too, but not in the way Klopp would’ve anticipated. Martin Skrtel replaced Dejan Lovren and within minutes, tugged on Graziano Pelle to gift Saints a penalty. Simon Mignolet saved from Mane, but Liverpool had their warning that the task was far from complete.
They did not heed it, losing their shape and their wits. Christian Benteke, who replaced Daniel Sturridge on 70 minutes, could not show the kind of ruthlessness the England international applied for Liverpool’s second goal. He squandered a one-on-one opportunity after being sent through by Adam Lallana, dragging his shot wide.
At the other end, Mane and Pelle were not as kind. The former got his side back in the fixture on 64 minutes, before the pair struck within 180 seconds of each other to seal maximum points.
It was a collective failing from Liverpool. Klopp was correct in his decision to take off Lovren, who was in danger of being sent off and while Shane Long waited and then made the most of contact with the Croatian in the eighth minute, he was lucky not to concede a penalty.
The manager’s opting for Skrtel over Kolo Toure was baffling though as the Ivorian has put in solid shifts for Liverpool, while the 31-year-old is rusty after a long absence and has a reputation of being too rash.
His last outing was the horror show at Watford and the nightmare continued at St Mary’s. At the back, in the middle and in attack Liverpool just surrendered the initiative and offered Southampton encouragement.
Koeman stated afterwards “normally you don’t get this chance against Liverpool” as even he seemed stunned by how a side so comfortable at the end of the first half could be so crushed at the final whistle.
“They let us back into life after the first 45 minutes,” he smiled. Southampton started the game on top and ended it as such, in-between Liverpool showed why they could possibly sneak a top-four spot, and why they absolutely couldn’t.
This was the first time in Premier League history that the Reds lost a game they held a 2-0 advantage in at half-time and Klopp will be determined to ensure it is the last.
His side have dropped more points from leading positions than any other in the top-flight this season. And when Liverpool look at the table, they can only look for themselves to blame.