Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp must be scratching his head, wondering how they have gone from genuine title contenders to a team who can not even get a result against one of the Premier League’s bottom three.
It is now just one win in ten games in all competitions for Klopp’s side — and that was against League Two outfit Plymouth after a replay in the FA Cup — a run which has left them 13 points adrift of leaders Chelsea and out of contention for top spot.
The Reds seemed to be the real deal for the first few months of the season, possibly even Chelsea’s main rivals as they won matches with free-flowing football the norm as Hull City discovered themselves in September when they lost 5-1 at Anfield.
A home draw with Chelsea last week proved a false dawn as Liverpool were frustrated by the resilience of a Hull team that looks a completely different proposition under the leadership of new head coach Marco Silva following his appointment as Mike Phelan’s successor a month ago.
The Tigers clearly had a gameplan to nullify Liverpool’s attacking instincts and even a change to the starting line-up before kick-off, following Michael Dawson’s injury in the warm-up, didn’t shake them.
Hull’s point against Manchester United in midweek owed much to the man of the match performance of Eldin Jakupovic, but worryingly for Liverpool, the goalkeeper didn’t need to be star of the show this time, particularly during a sluggish first half display that left Klopp livid.
Once again the finger of blame is being pointed in the direction of a Liverpool goalkeeper, with Simon Mignolet culpable for City’s first with just minutes to go before the half-time interval.
The Belgian failed to claim what looked a routine catch under pressure from Abel Hernandez after Harry Maguire had redirected a City corner towards the Reds’ goal. Mignolet’s flap proved costly as the ball fell straight at the feet of debutant Alfred N’Diaye who made no mistake from only a few yards out.
Klopp admitted: “I saw the whole set-piece and the formation was not right, not in one second, and I have no idea why. I was not happy. I was the opposite. We have to change it.
“It’s all about concentration and being really in the game and finding the answer now after a defeat which hurts really bad, not only myself but the players too.
“Putting ourselves under pressure obviously is kind of a hobby for us, and we have to show a reaction.”
An interval rocket from Klopp did appear to spark some life into Liverpool players as they began the second half with a renewed purpose.
However, the Reds were often guilty of snatching at chances and their day and form generally was perhaps best summed up by Coutinho’s woeful miss in the 68th minute.
It was perhaps inevitable then that Oumar Niasse, a striker on loan from Everton, would take advantage of a counter-attack to rub salt into the wounds and make sure of the points for the hosts with a cool finish under the body of Mignolet.
In truth, emotions couldn’t be more different between the two clubs as City’s die-hards are now starting to believe that survival is a very real possibly.
At the start of January, many were questioning the wisdom of handing Silva his first Premier League job while continuing to protest against the Allam family’s ownership of the club.
Silva said: “I’m really happy with the behaviour of the supporters in our stadium, they support our players always. In some moments we will suffer but they need to support our players, it is so important.
“If I believe, if our players believe, and our fans believe as well, then together it is possible to change the situation.”
It appears Hull City have found their belief at the right time, but if Liverpool want to hang on to a top four spot to qualify for the Champions League, they too need to find the same ingredients and fast.
Jakupovic 8, Elabdellaouib 7, Ranocchia 7, Maguire 8, Robertson 7, Grosicki 7 (Meyler 79, 6), Huddlestone 7, N’Diaye 6, Clucas 6, Evandro 7 (Tymon 62, 6) Hernandez 5 (Niasse 65, 6)
Subs not used:
Marshall, Diomande, Maloney, Mbokani.
Mignolet 5, Clyne 6, Lucas 5, Matip 6, Milner 6 (Moreno 83, 5), Henderson 6, Can 5 (Sturridge 67, 5), Mane 7, Lallana 6 (Origi 83, 5), Coutinho 6, Firmino 5
Subs not used:
Karius, Wijnaldum, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold.
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