Jurgen Klopp was denied his first win as Liverpool manager as Sadio Mane’s late equaliser earned Southampton a deserved 1-1 draw at Anfield on Sunday.
Klopp had looked set for his maiden victory when substitute Christian Benteke powered in a header from James Milner’s cross with 13 minutes to play.
But Liverpool, who had drawn each of their new manager’s first two matches in charge, were held once again as Mane bundled in his fifth goal in five matches with four minutes remaining.
The Senegal winger was then sent off late on after receiving two yellow cards in quick succession, the second of which was for a crunching challenge on Alberto Moreno.
Klopp’s team laboured for much of the afternoon and appear to have plenty of work ahead of them if they are to challenge for Champions League qualification this season.
The former Borussia Dortmund coach has been left desperately short of attacking options in his early matches, and will have been pleased to see Benteke and Roberto Firmino continue their recovery from recent injury problems with second-half substitute appearances.
But Liverpool’s defensive weaknesses cost them dearly, with Jose Fonte and Gaston Ramirez able to win headers from the free-kick that led to Mane forcing the equaliser.
United States-based principal owner John W Henry once again watched from the stands, as he had when Klopp’s team were held 1-1 at home by Rubin Kazan in the Europa League on Thursday.
If Henry was hoping for a lively start, he was disappointed, as Liverpool were sluggish.
With Daniel Sturridge missing a third successive match because of a knee problem and neither Benteke nor Firmino fit enough to start, Divock Origi was once again pressed into service as the main striker.
Origi, who has yet to score for Liverpool, looked desperately short of confidence, and touched the ball just 10 times in 45 minutes before he was replaced by Benteke at half-time.
Liverpool still missing high-energy game
There were few signs of the high-energy pressing game for which Klopp’s teams have become famous.
Philippe Coutinho had an early shot charged down by Southampton right-back Cedric, before Emre Can hooked a James Milner corner into the side-netting at the near post.
But Coutinho, Origi and Adam Lallana struggled after that as the visitors defended solidly.
It was Southampton who had the two clearest chances of the opening half, both of which fell to Dutch centre-back Virgil van Dijk within seconds of each other.
Van Dijk escaped his marker as he met a Steven Davis free-kick six minutes before the break, but his header down into the turf lacked power and keeper Simon Mignolet clawed the ball away.
From the resulting short corner, Dusan Tadic found Van Dijk unmarked at the far post, and this time his header back across goal was cleared by Lucas Leiva.
Moreno blazed over at the other end as Liverpool looked to impose themselves, but it was only with the half-time introduction of Benteke that they started to pose more of a threat.
The Belgium striker’s goalbound volley from a corner was chested away by Davis, before Moreno fizzed a cross-shot that whizzed across goal.
At the other end, the adventurous Moreno produced a perfectly-timed tackle as Mane burst through for Southampton, before Liverpool struck.
Benteke, making only his second appearance since coming back from a month out with a hamstring injury, rose to head Milner’s right-wing cross into the top corner of the net with 13 minutes to go.
Klopp greeted the goal by leaping into the air and running down the touchline; a celebration that appeared as much a signal of relief as joy.
But his expression turned to a rueful smile as Mane struck late on to leave Liverpool ninth in the Premier League.