MIDWAY through the second half at Anfield on Saturday, one angry Liverpool supporter had seen enough.
Agitated by Aston Villa’s timewasting and his own team’s seeming disinterest, the fan hurdled the wall in front of the Paddock enclosure and hurriedly retrieved a loose ball to great cheers from the home crowd.
In one moment, he demonstrated greater speed of thought and urgency than most of Brendan Rodgers’s players did throughout 90 tortuous minutes.
By the time referee Neal Swarbrick blew to put Liverpool out of their misery, there were few of the Anfield faithful remaining to jeer an abject performance from the home side.
Of Rodgers’ fledgling reign, this was the nadir. The opening-day defeat at West Bromwich Albion may have been heavier, but there were at least mitigating circumstances that afternoon.
Not on Saturday.
Speaking before the game, Rodgers had been buoyed sufficiently by Liverpool’s mini-revival to suggest a top-two finish was not beyond his improving squad.
Certainly, they can forget any aspirations of being Premier League runners-up on this evidence. Instead, Saturday’s dismal loss to Aston Villa underlined the areas in which they remain very much second best.
Armed with a gameplan, a growing resilience and the unstoppable Christian Benkete, Villa and their manager Paul Lambert brutally exposed the deficiencies that continue to hamper Liverpool.
The touted January arrivals of Daniel Sturridge and Tom Ince may bolster the squad but, as Rodgers readily admits, it will be several transfer windows before the team are moulded into the image he wants.
Liverpool supporters accept there will be days like Saturday. That, though, doesn’t make them any easier to take.
Only Steven Gerrard’s late header spared Liverpool the ignominy of crashing to their heaviest home league defeat since being thumped 4-1 by Chelsea in
Indeed, the last team to go 3-0 ahead at Anfield in a Premier League game was Manchester United back in 1994. Liverpool eventually fought back to earn a 3-3 draw.
At least Chelsea and United went on to win the championship in those respective seasons. Villa, by contrast, were in the relegation zone less than a month ago.
Like Rodgers, Villa manager Lambert is building a team within financial restraints that is reliant on youth; their average age of 23 years 309 days on Saturday made them the youngest Premier League side this season.
Of that fledgling crop, striker Benteke was the standout. Tall, powerful and direct, the Belgian international is the type of forward that doesn’t fit into the Rodgers mould.