Liverpool‘s slow start to the year has continued as they have suffered a 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield to exit the FA Cup at the fourth-round stage.
The Reds have now won just one of their eight games in 2017, seeing them fall off the pace in the Premier League and drop out of both domestic cup competitions.
Three days on from their latest disappointing loss against Southampton, Wolves were quick to pile on further misery as two first-half goals proved enough in the end to make them the third team to win at this ground in the space of a week.
Richard Stearman got the visitors off to a dream start when converting from a Helder Costa free kick just 53 seconds into the match – the earliest goal Liverpool have shipped on home soil since the turn of the century.
It was also a first goal of any sort for the Wolverhampton-born defender in four years, allowing his side to sit back and pick off their opponents when given the chance to break.
Not for the first time in recent weeks, Liverpool failed to register a single shot on target in the first half and were restricted to a couple of wayward strikes from Lucas Leiva and Roberto Firmino.
The counter-attacking threat from Costa was there to see again shortly before the interval, as the Benfica loanee raced clear and this time picked out full debutant Andreas Weimann, who smartly rounded Karius and rolled the ball into the back of the net to double Wolves’ advantage.
Liverpool, showing nine changes from last time out – Jurgen Klopp clearly prioritising the meeting with Chelsea here in three days’ time – did have a shout for a penalty turned down on the brink of half time when Weimann bundled into Georginio Wijnaldum.
Klopp had held off making changes at the break in his side’s last two home outings but, with two goals required to simply rescue a replay, Philippe Coutinho was brought on in place of full-back Connor Randall.
That also meant a change of system for the Reds and, while it did make a slight difference, the Reds were still struggling to test young Wolves keeper Harry Burgoyne between the sticks.
Alberto Moreno failed to test him from close range on what was just a third appearance, 12 months after sitting on the bench for AFC Telford, while Firmino had a couple of attempts blocked inside the box.
Burgoyne did have an attempt to keep out on the hour mark when getting behind a Coutinho shot, and the Brazilian was certainly injecting further urgency as he so nearly slotted the ball through for Moreno.
Wolves, backed by 8,300 fans this afternoon, could sense a second-successive scalp in the competition as their opponents struggled to find any sort of momentum as the final quarter arrived.
Youngster Ben Woodburn had a penalty appeal of his own correctly ruled out and Coutinho again fired wide from range, but Wolves perhaps should have added a third when Karius kept out Jon Dadi Bodvarsson‘s close-range volley.
There was hope for Liverpool four minutes from time when Divock Origi helped the ball over the line after being picked out by Daniel Sturridge, before being denied a dramatic leveller by Burgoyne soon after.
In the end a third defeat in a week at Anfield, having previously gone more than 12 months without losing here, could not be prevented as Wolves booked their spot in the last 16 for the first time since 2008.