Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has demanded a reaction from his players following their shock loss to Southampton.
Danny Ings’ early goal, a deft lob over Alisson, was enough to seal the 1-0 win for a Saints side who had to withstand some second-half pressure from Liverpool but never looked threatened.
And Klopp felt the slow start was a massive issue on the night at St Mary’s.
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“What was disappointing? How long have we got? The start, obviously,” Klopp told BBC Sport. “Not only the goal but the start in general. Congratulations to Southampton, they deserved it.
“You know exactly what you are going to get from them, you cannot be surprised - but we looked surprised. At the beginning, how we played, where we lost the balls, it's not rocket science. We should have done much better. We played into their hands with the start.”
It was an abject display from the Reds, who summoned only one shot on target - a tame effort from Sadio Mane that did not trouble Fraser Forster.
“They put a lot of work in,” Klopp said of Southampton. “Our decision making was just not good. That is how it is when you don't have momentum. We should have had much more chances.”
Klopp described his players as an outstanding bunch, but is looking for a response from such a poor post-Christmas period.
Liverpool surrendered the initiative in the title race, with the defeat at Southampton meaning Manchester United can move clear at the top if they win their game in hand.
The loss means Liverpool have taken two from a possible nine points since Christmas, and has allowed the pack to close up.
“These are outstanding players but they were not ready from the start,” Klopp said. “Sadio Mane should have had a penalty tonight, and there was the handball - I've no idea.
“It's not an excuse for the performance but you can get a point if they are given. Now we have to show a reaction.”
The Reds now turn their attentions to the FA Cup and a meeting with Aston Villa, before a clash with title rivals Manchester United.