Liverpool’s mini-revival came to a crashing halt with a 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest, who secured just their second Premier League win for 23 years thanks to Taiwo Awoniyi’s goal.
Awoniyi spent six years as a Liverpool player without ever making an appearance as he was farmed out on a series of loan spells, but came back to haunt his former club and move his current employers off the bottom of the table.
“To score against Liverpool is a day I will never forget,” said Awoniyi.
“I will always to be grateful to Liverpool for scouting me from Nigeria and scoring against them is amazing.”
Liverpool were without the firepower of the injured Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz and it showed as they lacked the spark needed to unlock a deep-lying Forest defence.
“The performance I can kind of explain, the result not to be honest,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.
“We arrived with consistency but we had six games with a limited squad playing three high intense games. That’s how it is, we cannot change that and we have to fight through.
“For us today we have to win here and we didn’t, so credit to Nottingham.”
A third league defeat of the season leaves Liverpool still in seventh, 11 points adrift of leaders Arsenal having played a game more.
Victory over Manchester City last weekend, followed by another 1-0 win against West Ham in midweek had seemingly given Klopp’s men lift-off after a slow start to the campaign.
But with Thiago Alcantara also missing due to illness, they did not have enough in reserve even to see off a side without a win since August.
Forest have stayed patient with manager Steve Cooper, even handing the former Swansea boss a new contract, as he tries to bed in a record 23 new signings in one transfer window for a Premier League team.
– Just the start for Forest –
The two-time European champions are slowly beginning to see some return on that investment after also withstanding a bombardment from Brighton to draw 0-0 at the Amex midweek.
“This is not the end, this has got to be a part of the start. We get back in on Monday and work even harder,” said Cooper.
“We’ve been on a difficult run but, I told the boys, I’ve not seen them hide, shy away or sulk. I’ve seen the opposite. That’s given me reassurance.”
Klopp made five changes in all from Liverpool’s win over West Ham on Wednesday and it showed in a disjointed first-half performance as Liverpool struggled to make over 70 percent possession tell in terms of chances.
But the German was left furious at his side’s inability to take a series of glorious chances from set-pieces.
Virgil van Dijk inexplicably tried to head the ball in the direction of Roberto Firmino rather than go for goal himself from close range with a free header.
Ten minutes into the second period it was Forest who struck from a set-piece as Ryan Yates’ initial effort came back off the post and Awoniyi was perfectly placed to tap into an unguarded net.
Dead balls remained Liverpool’s best route to a goal as Firmino headed wide from a corner before Van Dijk’s effort from a Trent-Alexander Arnold free-kick was well saved by Dean Henderson.
But Forest held out to the delight of a packed house at the City Ground to move within one point of climbing out of the bottom three.