- Published on Thursday, 12 January 2017 08:35
Liverpool face a battle to reach the EFL Cup final after slumping to a 1-0 defeat to Southampton in the first leg of the semi-final at St Mary's.
The Reds produced a wretched display on the South Coast and are lucky they don't have to over-turn a greater deficit in the second leg at Anfield on January 25.
Jurgen Klopp's side were indebted to keeper Loris Karius for some fine saves as Saints threatened to add to Nathan Redmond's first-half goal.
The only positive for Liverpool was the sight of Philippe Coutinho making his comeback off the bench after seven weeks out with an ankle injury,
Klopp had vowed to pick a team with solely the EFL Cup in mind and he was true to his word. No outfield player was left out with one eye on Sunday's crunch Premier League clash at Old Trafford.
Liverpool started the tie brightly and bossed the opening 20 minutes before the wheels came off.
The Reds could have led when Emre Can's lofted pass picked out Adam Lallana, who nodded cleverly into the path of Roberto Firmino.
The Brazilian struck it sweetly with his left foot but Fraser Forster reacted smartly to turn it over the bar.
From a position of control and with the home fans growing increasingly agitated, Liverpool shot themselves in the foot with some horrendous defending.
The warning signs were there when Redmond was left unmarked at the far post to get on the end of Cedric's cross from the right. On that occasion Karius came to the rescue as he raced off his line and stuck out a boot to make a crucial save.
However, the German keeper was left helpless moments later as Saints grabbed a 20th minute lead.
Ragnar Klavan's miskick enabled Jay Rodriguez to release Redmond, who coolly slotted past Karius.
Liverpool's response was weak and they were fortunate not to fall further behind.
Ryan Bertrand got away from Lallana and fed Dusan Tadic, whose low cross picked out the unmarked Redmond.
The England Under-21s international should have buried it but fired too close to Karius, who parried the ball to safety.
The second half brought more of the same with uncertainty spreading through the ranks.
Just past the hour mark Coutinho was summoned from the bench with Gini Wijnaldum making way.
However, Liverpool continued to toil and Saints should have doubled their lead when Cedric lashed wastefully into the side netting.
The woodwork saved the Reds late on. Substitute Shane Long got away from Lucas and crossed for Redmond, whose dinked finish beat Karius but back off the underside of the bar.