At Southampton, Jürgen Klopp’s side lacked efficacy and the early season injury crisis could catch up with them.
With only a few minutes left, James Milner fell over in possession as Liverpool attempted an equalizer.
Center back Jack Stephens recovered the ball, and he reluctantly dribbled the ball out of safety with no Southampton teammate ready to make a run, as if he were forced to.
Finally, Stephens chipped across the line with a hopeful long ball that Yan Valery ran on.
Alisson came into play at this point: he sprinted from his target to clear heroically. But Alisson soon realized, to his horror, that he would not hit the ball first.
And then the Liverpool goalkeeper actually stopped after advancing 45 yards, like a man who had just stepped forward to receive communion, just to note that he was not a Catholic.
Finally, Jordan Henderson deflected Valery’s shot, and play proceeded in its normal fashion.
But in a way, it seemed that this odd and slightly humorous passage of play illuminated something bigger: not only the game as a whole, but maybe the whole season, or probably the whole world.
We were all the protagonists in this scenario at some stage last year: the stumbling Milner, the listless Stephens, the impetuous Alisson, the frightened Valery. And the ball itself: scruffy, energy deficient and doomed to never reach its destination.
However, from Liverpool’s viewpoint, on their way to the championship, slowness is a recurrent issue.
Alisson’s late turn into a rushed keeper, chasing a ball he almost certainly would have reached last season, summed this up. The last yard is always said to be in the mind, and the memories of Liverpool are writing checks that their exhausted bodies can no longer cash for them.
A bit of insight, first. For Liverpool, it was just their season’s second league loss. On goal difference, they remain top. In their next six games, four are home games.
And there was still more than enough pressure, more than enough possession, and more than enough chances for Liverpool to turn the game around on another night, even with this wasteful result.
But as Henderson noted later, those slow beginnings are becoming a bit of a concern.
It was, therefore, shortly after 8 p.m. Liverpool paid a heavy price, as did the rest of the world, for insufficient precautions. Trent Alexander-Arnold could have done a much better job of clearing the ball, even though Danny Ings’ shot from a James Ward-Prowse free kick had a touch of training ground.
All in all, for Alexander-Arnold, it was a horrible night: he gave away the ball 38 times, more this season than any other Premier League player, and he couldn’t finish the game.
But he was far from alone.
Andrew Robertson was almost as bad on the opposite flank.
Mo Salah struggled to get into the game and, when he did, gave nothing. There was a limp midfield. The push barely worked. Up until the 75th minute, there was not a single shot on target. Like that, you should move on.
The real issue was the lack of the usual efficiency of Liverpool: the crosses to no one, the heavy touches in the final third, all that last season made them stand out. Liverpool looked better in the second half after Jürgen Klopp presumably delivered a sober and sufficient team talk.
But the inherent carelessness on the ball was still there, which is a natural consequence of the injury crisis in the early weeks of the season.
At that point, Liverpool still had the depth and energy to compensate for the absences of Virgil van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Thiago. This might be the moment they start paying for it. Unlike title rivals Manchester United, Liverpool do not have a number of experienced reserves sitting on the sidelines.
Sadio Mané, meanwhile, played 12 games in 43 days.
Since July, Robertson has not missed a game in the Premier League or Champions League.
As for Klopp, he will rage – not without reason – about kickoff times and rest periods.
But it wasn’t him who made the decision to let Diogo Jota play in a meaningless Champions League tie, who then suffered a knee injury. The good news for Liverpool is that the title is still up for grabs. The bad news is that if they want to win, they will have to suffer like never before.