Southampton brought Liverpool’s good run to an abrupt halt with a 3-1 Premier League win at St Mary’s.
Saints dominated the first half as goals from Morgan Schneiderlin and Rickie Lambert gave them a 2-0 lead, but Liverpool pulled one back in stoppage time through Philippe Coutinho.
The visitors improved in the second half but, after resisting a quarter-hour of pressure, the hosts took charge again, adding a third through Jay Rodriguez.
The victory is Mauricio Pochettino’s second since Nigel Adkins was sacked, putting Saints seven points clear of the relegation zone, while Liverpool stay seventh.
Southampton had a fully-fit squad to choose from and played to the fullest of their collective capability, as they controlled possession and created a string of chances for the whole game bar a 15-20 minute spell of Liverpool dominance.
Brendan Rodgers’s side, meanwhile, had won their previous four matches but were without goalkeeper Pepe Reina, also opting to start midfielder Joe Allen, despite the Welshman struggling with a shoulder problem. That later transpired to be an error as he failed to get into the game.
"We just weren't very good," admitted Rodgers afterwards. "We only started playing when we were 2-0 down."
Saints came out of the blocks fastest, and they took an early lead when Schneiderlin flicked the ball home following a towering knock-down from Rodriguez.
With Adam Lallana and Gaston Ramirez in fine form, the hosts continued to take Liverpool apart, with Lambert firing weakly at Brad Jones after springing the offside trap, and Rodriguez unable to finish on three occasions after finding himself in good positions.
The Reds could barely escape their half, and when they did they found themselves on the wrong end of some dubious decisions from the assistant referee.
So a second was fully deserved, although there was a stroke of luck about boyhood Reds fan Lambert’s 33rd-minute free-kick, which took a massive touch off Daniel Sturridge to beat Jones.
Sturridge and Luis Suarez had struggled to get in the game as Liverpool failed to keep the ball, but they did improve in the latter stages as Artur Boruc made a great save from Coutinho.
And, while harsh on Southampton given the number of opportunities they had created, the pendulum had swung Liverpool’s way when - just before half-time – Coutinho finished well after Sturridge’s shot ricocheted into his path, Gerrard involved with the initial knock-down.
The second half was thus always going to be about Liverpool’s chase of the game, the struggling Allen replaced by Lucas at the break as the Reds launched a full-scale assault.
They had their chances too: Sturridge scuffed his finish when Southampton failed to clear a corner, while Suarez was denied by the rub of the slippery green as a long ball skipped into the arms of Boruc.
Southampton regained their composure, starting to earn a bit more possession around the hour mark as the more solid Steven Davis replaced the tiring Ramirez.
Both sides created half-chances but nothing to truly threaten either keeper until, with 12 minutes left, Jones made a fine stop after Lallana was put clean through by Schneiderlin.
Soon afterwards Southampton had a third as, with the visiting defence meekly backing off, Rodriguez ran a full 30 yards before finishing at the second attempt, Jones having parried his initial effort.
That knocked the stuffing out of the Reds, although there was time for Jose Enrique to hit the side netting from close range after an excellent Glen Johnson cross.
It was too little too late as Liverpool slumped to a ninth league defeat of the season.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jay Rodriguez (Southampton): The bustling striker was a real handful throughout, weighing in with a goal and an assist.
Southampton: Boruc 7, Clyne 7, Yoshida 7, Hooiveld N/A, Shaw 6, Schneiderlin 8, Cork 7, Lallana 8, Ramirez 7, Rodriguez 8, Lambert 7; Subs: Fonte 7, S. Davis 7, Guly N/A
Liverpool: Jones 6, Johnson 7, Enrique 6, Agger 6, Skrtel 6, Allen 5, Gerrard 6, Downing 6, Coutinho 7, Sturridge 5, Suarez 5; Subs: Henderson N/A, Lucas 6
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- Jay Rodriguez