Inside the first minute of the game, it was clear that Wolverhampton were far more up for the tie than their lacklustre opponents. The Anfield crowd was not as quiet as last Saturday but on the field the performance and result was no different.
A lethargic start from Liverpool saw Wolves win a free kick about two thirds of the way up the pitch; the ball was swung in and the home back line had already been breached. Stearman was on target with only sixty seconds on the clock.
Too many times in recent seasons have Liverpool conceded from set-pieces, and the same situation occurred again. Even so, there should have been time to turn it around.
Liverpool, however, struggled to rally, with the experienced players like Lucas and Roberto Firmino either making poor errors or, in the latters case, not getting into the game at all. Divock Origi, too, was largely anonymous. Alberto Moreno, at least, saw some of the ball, although he failed to do anything with it.
Even the shock of losing an early goal could not wake anybody up.
When Liverpool won a corner, the crowd was expecting a chance to equalise quickly and move on from there. Instead, Wolves won the ball back, broke away and Andreas Weimann – identified as a key threat beforehand – easily ran at the Liverpool defence and doubled their lead. No one even attempted a challenge.
Flashbacks from last weekend’s poor display at home to Swansea resulted as another opposition attacker – last week Tom Carroll, this week the Austrian – was allowed to run freely for such a long period, punishing the Reds defending with a goal.
Philippe Coutinho came on at half-time as Liverpool gambled – switching to a back three and throwing more players forward.
Even he, though, failed to inspire for large parts, as Liverpool struggled to break down a packed defence once again.
Liverpool had around 80% possession in the second period, but lacked penetration.
Divock Origi poked home after a scrappy corner, but there were not many other clear-cut chances after that. The game petered out as Wolves took the sting out of it and managed it well.
Jurgen Klopp received criticism for his team selection, but with Chelsea looming next Tuesday, the team was hardly a surprise. In truth, neither was the result given the poor recent performances.
Klopp has put Liverpool under huge pressure now to justify his decision. Liverpool need a win now against the team at the top, off the back of three defeats in a week, to salvage any positives at all from the period.
For Wolves, the draw on Monday evening and the next round beckons.
Liverpool must rally and show immense character to shake themselves out of such a slump. Make no bones about it: Liverpool simply are not good enough at the moment.
The only good news to come out of today would be a defeat for Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations, signalling a return for Sadio Mané. His pace and directness has been sorely missed.