Michael Dawson rises to sink Liverpool and give Hull a big lift
Hull City 1 - Liverpool 0
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers all but conceded defeat in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League after last night's 1-0 defeat to Hull City at the KC Stadium.
Michael Dawson's first-half header sunk the woeful Reds and lifted Hull to the brink of safety.
The Tigers captain timed his move to perfection to power home a cross from Ahmed Elmohamady and ultimately take his side four points clear of the relegation zone with four games to play.
And Ulsterman Rodgers swatted away Pool's hopes of pushing past Manchester United into the Champions League places, saying his side must just concentrate on performing better than they are at present.
He said after the defeat: "I think that's (a top four spot) not the reality of it.
"Our fight is to perform better through to the end of the season. It was always going to be difficult for us.
"The opportunity was tough this year in terms of where we were at as a team."
The Liverpool manager believes his side defended poorly against Hull and did not carry enough of an attacking threat.
"We just lacked that killer instinct in the final third," he continued. "We are disappointed with the goal. Apart from that we didn't have too many chances against us. It was poor defending.
"We were never enough of a threat. It's been a mark of the season really, in that final third we have struggled.
"We had enough of the ball in key areas, but it was a tale of the two boxes really. We didn't defend the second phase of the corner, it was a poor goal to give away. And in the other box we didn't have enough quality and ambition to get the goal."
Steve Bruce's men surged forward from the opening minute when an Elmohamady cross from the right was hooked clear by Dejan Lovren.
And for a large part they looked simply unrecognisable from a side whose run of six games without a win looked to have left them relegation certainties.
It was Liverpool, without Steven Gerrard whom Rodgers indicated was being rested, who looked rudderless and ill-equipped to cope with the hosts' attacking intent.
Dame N'Doye headed a sixth-minute chance straight at Simon Mignolet from a Sone Aluko cross when he perhaps should have done better.
The visitors did briefly threaten through the energetic Glen Johnson down the left, while Philippe Coutinho came close. But the sporadic threat summoned by Rodgers' men did not faze Hull in the slightest.
Mignolet punched away a dangerous Robbie Brady free-kick and was grateful for a poor follow-up by James Chester, before Mario Balotelli tried a pointless back-heel.
Mignolet pulled off a superb double-save to deny first Jake Livermore then Aluko in a mighty goalmouth scramble, then had to pluck a dangerous Stephen Quinn cross from the air.
The goal the Tigers richly deserved arrived in the 37th minute when Elmohamady lofted the ball back into the box and Dawson timed his move to perfection to spring the offside trap and belt a firm header past Mignolet.
Despite a quieter start to the second period, it was still Hull who were showing the greater desire and Mignolet had to be alert to pluck the ball off the head of N'Doye after another fine cross from the left by Elmohamady.
Liverpool came close just past the hour mark when Jordan Henderson picked up Coutinho's ball into the box and hit a low shot on the turn which was palmed away by Steve Harper.
Aluko was almost sent clear on goal before stumbling into Martin Skrtel, while Henderson had another good chance for the visitors when his low shot stung the hands of Harper.
The inevitably nervy last few minutes saw Sterling shoot straight at the Hull keeper while Tom Huddlestone could have sealed it with a long-range rocket which flashed just wide before referee Lee Probert's whistle sparked jubilation.