Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool are suffering a “rusty moment” after a 1-0 defeat at Southampton extended the defending champions’ winless run in the Premier League to three games.
Danny Ings’s stunning second-minute goal earned three points which moved Southampton into sixth and led to Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl breaking into tears of joy on the final whistle.
“Only if you know the problem can you solve the problem, we are not blind. We have to fight and play through this.”
A first league defeat in three months may hasten Liverpool’s search for a centre-back in the January transfer window.
Without the injured Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, Klopp started two of his first-choice midfielders from their title-winning campaign, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, together at the heart of his defence.
Southampton had not scored in their last three games to temper their hopes of a push for European football, but took just two minutes to break the deadlock in style through former Liverpool striker Ings.
Trent Alexander-Arnold did not deal with James Ward-Prowse’s angled free-kick into the box and Ings perfectly hooked his shot over Alisson Becker into the far corner.
Fraser Forster was making his first Saints appearance since May 2019, but the former England international was rarely tested to earn his clean sheet.
The visitors could easily have found themselves 2-0 down before the break when Southampton substitute Nathan Tella was inches away from his first senior goal.
Sadio Mane was the visitors’ biggest threat on his return to St Mary’s as Jack Stephens made a last-ditch challenge to block his route to goal before Kyle Walker-Peters was lucky to escape without conceding a penalty for obstructing another burst from the Senegalese into the box.
Thiago Alcantara was making just his second Liverpool start since a much-anticipated move from Bayern Munich, but even the Spaniard’s range of passing could not cut through Southampton’s determined defence.
“We had to have a perfect gameplan today and luck. Without luck against such a team you cannot win.”
Mane had Liverpool’s only shot on target 15 minutes from time when his tame effort was easily held by Forster low to his left.
Liverpool so often dug themselves out of problems with late goals in romping to the title last season, but have failed to do so over the festive period, also dropping points against struggling West Brom and Newcastle.