Trouble at Anfield as Rafa Benitez pointed an accusing finger at Steven Gerrard and his senior players after Liverpool lost 3-1 at home to Aston Villa.
An own goal by Lucas Leiva and a glancing header from Curtis Davies gave Villa a 2-0 interval lead before Fernando Torres pulled one back for Liverpool in the 72nd minute.
Any hopes of a storming comeback were shortlived as Steven Gerrard rashly brought down midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker and Ashley Young beat keeper Pepe Reina from the penalty spot with 15 minutes remaining.
Reflecting on a second defeat in three games so far this season, a stony-faced Benitez said:
“The team have to improve, and a lot depends on the senior players accepting responsibility and doing their bit to make it happen.
“It was a mistake for the first goal but Gerrard made one as well for the penalty and it is clear we should have done better for the second. There were too many people in Liverpool shirts involved for their player to get his head to the ball.
“If you are going to analyse errors, you are going to be analysing a lot of things when you are losing games, you have to change things. In our case, the change has to be the level of performance and it has to improve against Bolton at the weekend.
“It’s not good talking about the title. We can’t afford to look any further than our next game. People can talk about transfer funds but this team finished so close to the top last season and should be doing better.”
Villa manager Martin O’Neill was obviously happier with the game saying:
“I’m delighted with the performance. We put absolutely everything into the game, not just effort but skill and ability.
‘We had a sluggish start on the opening day [a 2-0 home defeat to Wigan] and to come and win here against maybe one of the title favourites was a terrific effort.
“At 2-0 we seemed in reasonable command of the game, it goes to 2-1 and so we had to react pretty quickly. We got a goal through the penalty – and it was a penalty – and got ourselves back in again. We deserved to win.”