Jurgen Klopp lost his first fixture against Manchester United as Liverpool manager as Wayne Rooney scored a late winner at Anfield to steal the visitors a 1-0 victory.
It was a 90 minutes which summed up our season; plenty of good football around the box but nobody to take the chances, and then a lapse of concentration at the back which cost us dearly.
The result – a third league game without a win in 2016 – leaves us eight points adrift of the Champions League places, and six points behind United, who are now back up to fifth.
The starting lineup was far from what we would have liked for a game of this magnitude, but that is no fault of Klopp whose resources were once again limited by a crippling injury list.
Lucas coming in for Jordon Ibe in the only change from Wednesday’s 3-3 draw with Arsenal suggested that Klopp’s aim was to keep things tight and hope that we could be the team to nick a goal.
But that was far from the case in the first half. We actually created six or seven chances as the rest of the midfielders bombed on in support of Roberto Firmino while Lucas held back.
The experienced midfielder was excellent from start to finish, and got the crowd going with his bullish response to a vicious stamp from Marouane Fellaini which went unpunished by the officials.
Early on, Lucas pinged an outstanding ball over the top for Adam Lallana, whose attempted headed lob over the onrushing David de Gea lacked any sort of conviction. From the rebound, Firmino dragged a 20-yard shot narrowly wide of the post.
Our Brazilians were showing their passing range. Firmino picked out James Milner with a beautiful switch of play, but Milner allowed the angle to become too tight and volleyed high.
Henderson was the one benefitting most from Lucas being in the team. He was regularly getting into the box and had two efforts in quick succession, the first following the move of the match.
Lucas, Henderson, Lallana and Firmino all combined with one-touch passes into the area, which set up the skipper for a shooting chance that he flashed across goal. He probably should have hit the target, and was wayward again with a long-range volley a couple of minutes later.
We opened up the United defence once more when Lallana released Firmino after an Emre Can charge upfield. Firmino cocked the trigger but Anthony Martial prevented him from getting a shot away. There was little protest from the Reds despite Martial not playing the ball.
Failing to seriously test De Gea was where we fell short before the break. At the other end, Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho were defending strongly and keeping things simple. Martial only got beyond them once with a run and shot which fizzed just past the far post.
Can called De Gea into action shortly after the restart when he skipped past Chris Smalling with a neat trick and fired low and hard. De Gea got a leg to the shot and diverted it around the post, although it could have just as easily rolled into the back of the net.
The midfield selected only had three league goals combined ahead of kickoff but were desperately trying to add to that tally. Henderson, Lallana and Can all had efforts from distance, with the German international forcing De Gea into this full-stretch save.
That proved to be a crucial intervention because United went on to score with one of their few chances of the game. Fellaini’s header came back off the crossbar and Rooney volleyed home the rebound for his first goal at Anfield since 2005. It was not what we deserved.
GK: Simon Mignolet – 6/10
RB: Nathaniel Clyne – 7/10
CB: Kolo Toure – 7/10 (Christian Benteke 80) N/a
CB: Mamadou Sakho – 8/10
LB: Alberto Moreno – 7/10
DMC: Lucas Leiva – 8/10
CM: Jordan Henderson – 7/10
CM: Emre Can – 7/10
AMR: Adam Lallana – 6/10 (Jordon Ibe 75) 5/10
AML: James Milner – 6/10 (Steven Caulker 90) N/a
ST: Roberto Firmino – 7/10
Liverpool Dele Alli: Brendan Rodgers reveals how close Liverpool came to signing Tottenham prodigy
Jordan Henderson says his injury troubles are behind him ahead of United showdown
Klopp atones for Ferguson slip by revealing Man United rejection on eve of derby debut