Hull City 3 Liverpool 1
It might be too easy to suggest Liverpool are already missing Daniel Sturridge, their injured top scorer, but it is hard to escape the thought he would have helped dig them out of a hole in Hull.
Sturridge has been ruled out for up to eight weeks after suffering ligament damage to his left ankle in training on Friday. He came on as a sub last weekend to salvage a point in the Merseyside derby, but Brendan Rodgers did not have that option against Hull.
Without his potency, Liverpool got exactly what they deserved from a tepid display.
Jake Livermore, the midfielder on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, gave Hull the lead in the 20th minute with a deflected drive from 20 yards before Steven Gerrard equalised with a free-kick seven minutes later.
Ireland midfielder David Meyler put Hull 2-1 ahead midway through the second half before Martin Skrtel headed Tom Huddlestone’s mishit shot into his own net with three minutes left to seal a first victory over Liverpool at the 17th time of asking.
Rodgers had challenged his squad to step up to the task of coping without Sturridge. Philippe Coutinho is also not fully fit, after needing injections to even take a place on the bench at Hull.
“The quality of our squad, with all due respect, isn’t big enough to cope with missing two big players,” Rodgers said. “Daniel’s out for what could be eight weeks, which is a big blow for us. They’re two very good players that have been very efficient for us this season.
“This is a very busy period we’re coming into. We’re a squad that needs as many of our good players as possible. It’s a big blow for us.”
Bruce might have aimed to stifle Liverpool with a defensive-minded 3-5-2 approach, but his side posed the greater goal threat. Indeed, centre-back Alex Bruce had as many shots on goal as Luis Suarez.
Hull grabbed a lead their early play merited, albeit with a slice of luck, in the 20th minute. Victor Moses lost possession in his own half and Hull pounced.
Livermore exchanged passes with fellow midfielder Meyler and his shot from 20 yards hit Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel and looped into the net over Simon Mignolet.
Seven minutes later, Liverpool were level courtesy of captain Gerrard. Curtis Davies’s challenge on Jordan Henderson on the edge of the box gave Liverpool their first chance of note and Gerrard smashed his 25-yard free-kick low into corner.
While Liverpool controlled the play, Hull did a good job of keeping them at arm’s length and had chances of their own.
Sturridge and Coutinho’s fitness issues gave Raheem Sterling the chance to stake his claim with his first appearance since October, but the England winger did not take it. He was largely ineffectual, shackled too easily by Maynor Figueroa, before being replaced by Coutinho.
the substitute’s first contribution, in the 71st minute, was a low cross from the right that Moses met but Allan McGregor did brilliantly to claw it off the line.
A minute later, Hull were back in front.
Liverpool failed to clear their lines after Yannick Sagbo headed down Ahmed Elmohamady’s long ball into the box and Meyler sent a crisp low finish beyond Mignolet after Livermore’s first chance was blocked.
Suarez sent a 30-yard free kick whistling wide with seven minutes left but Hull finished the job in 87th minute.
Another long ball found Sagbo, who was onside thanks to Kolo Toure being down injured. The striker held up the ball long enough to find Huddlestone, whose chipped effort was steered beyond Mignolet and into his own goal by Skrtel.
Manager Steve Bruce said he hoped the victory would give his promoted side belief they can cut it in the top flight.
“It’s always hard, when you bring a team out of the Championship, to give them that response,” said Bruce.
“Some of that squad have hardly played in the Premier League. It gives them a little bit of self-belief that the can play here. Every week, we’ve got to be at our best. ”
HULL CITY (3-5-2): McGregor 8; Davies 8, Bruce 8, Figueroa 8; Elmohamady 7, Meyler 8, Huddlestone 8, Livermore 8, Brady 7 (Boyd, 90); Koren 6 (Rosenior, 66), Sagbo 8 (Graham, 88).
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Mignolet 6; Johnson 5, Toure 6, Skrtel 4, Flanagan 6; Lucas 6, Gerrard 6; Moses 5 (Alberto, 74, 6), Henderson 5, Sterling 4 (Coutinho, 66, 6); Suarez 6.
Referee: Howard Webb.
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