Andrew Robertson said Liverpool let their supporters down in their FA Cup fourth-round defeat to Brighton while Jurgen Klopp vowed that his struggling side will not “fall apart”.
The Reds opened the scoring through Harvey Elliot at the Amex Stadium but Lewis Dunk levelled before a brilliant strike from Kaoru Mitoma in the 92nd minute sent the holders crashing out.
The defeat, Liverpool’s second to Brighton in two weeks following their 3-0 reverse in the Premier League, was the ninth loss of their campaign in all competitions, with Robertson admitting their season has been “nowhere near good enough” in a candid television interview.
Already 21 points behind leaders Arsenal in the Premier League, and out of the Carabao Cup, the latest loss leaves the Champions League as Liverpool’s only remaining route to silverware, albeit with a daunting last-16 tie against Real Madrid to come.
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“Bitterly disappointing,” Robertson told ITV Sport after the game.
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“It was a proper cup tie. End-to-end. Both teams had chances. We were a lot more competitive than we were two weeks ago but that didn’t take much.
“At the end of the day, we’re out of the cup and that’s hard to take.
“When you’re at a club like Liverpool, the fans and everyone expect us to go far in these competitions and we’ve not managed it.
“When it’s the last minute and last kick of the ball, it’s so disappointing.”
Asked what Liverpool need to do to turn their fortunes around this season, Robertson added: “We need to start winning games. It’s easy to say but it’s harder to fix. It’s proven that way.
Image: Liverpool fell to their ninth defeat of the season in all competitions
“This season has been nowhere near good enough. At the turn of the year, we wanted a new start but it’s not got off to that. We’ve probably been worse.
“In the league, we’ve not been anywhere near good enough. We’ve been out of the League Cup against Man City and today, again. Now we’re out of both cups.
“It’s really disappointing. You can’t put your finger on one thing that’s gone wrong. It’s more than that. It’s about trying to put a performance together where all these things click and that’s proving difficult right now.
“You can tell we’re not as confident in front of goal, and defensively we’re still a wee bit open in certain areas.
“We were on the back of two clean sheets, which was positive, but today, two disappointing goals and they had a couple of big chances as well.
“We need to try and get the confidence back. It’s easier said than done but that’s the only way we can pick up results. You have to be able to score goals and you have to be able to keep clean sheets.
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“We’re not managing that just now and we need to do it.
“We keep saying that and it doesn’t help the fans. I feel sorry for them, the way we’re putting on a show for them just now. Behind the goal was packed today. They were unbelievable.
“We let them down again and we’re obviously disappointed to be falling out of the Cup.”
Klopp vows to keep fighting but rules out late January signings
Klopp was pleased to see some improvement on the 3-0 loss to Brighton two weeks ago, a performance he described as his worst in management, and insisted his Liverpool players will stick together and keep fighting as they bid to save their season.
“We had our moments again,” he said in his press conference. “We make steps, but we have to improve.
“You have to respect what they do, it’s really good. There were steps in the right direction. We have to go from there.
“We will try. We have to build. Body language – a couple of boys did much better. Last game here we couldn’t have won, but this today, nobody would be surprised if we had won.
Image: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo is challenged by Brighton's Lewis Dunk
“We will not fall apart, I can tell you. If it looks like that, I’m sorry. It’s not that we were falling apart late on, it was frustration – players get yellow cards, that happens.
“After we came back from the World Cup break we wanted to go for it. So far, it didn’t happen properly. But it just means we have to keep working. There were some very good performances today.
“I’m not over the moon about this performance overall. But this was much better. Two weeks ago was horrendous.
“I understand 100 per cent when people say we aren’t happy with the game. I’m sorry for Liverpool fans. Today we paid a little bit back, but we are still out and that’s the worst outcome from the game.”
Speaking in a separate interview, Klopp ruled out the possibility of signing any more players before the transfer deadline on Tuesday. “Nothing will happen in this transfer window, that’s all,” he said.
De Zerbi hails Brighton heart | ‘We can go forward without Caicedo’
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi hailed his side’s courage after they secured a second consecutive win over Liverpool despite the absence of key midfielder Moises Caicedo, who was left out of the squad amid interest from Arsenal and Chelsea.
“This was a different team to the last game,” he said of Liverpool. “It was very difficult to win this game and we are very happy. If you ask about the quality, I didn’t like the game, we can improve a lot. We made too many simple mistakes.
“We have to work. Most important football is to have heart and balls, you understand? To become a great team, you have to win this game. We didn’t play so well like the last game [against Liverpool].
Image: Roberto De Zerbi embraces match-winner Kaoru Mitoma at full-time
“You think it’s very nice today because we won the game, but to become bigger we have to understand the game. The result is important but the performance also.
“We are not like Manchester City, Man United, Arsenal, Tottenham or Liverpool and Chelsea. We are not at the same level. But we want to fight to improve. In the moment we are playing well. In the table we stay in sixth.
“The second time is always more difficult. In 15 days, we have beaten Liverpool twice. To win today, we needed to play with more personality, for this I’m happy.
Asked about Caicedo, whose future remains uncertain after he issued a statement asking for Brighton to let him leave following a £60m bid from Arsenal, De Zerbi said Brighton could adapt to life without him but admitted it would be a “problem” to lose him.
“Caicedo is a good guy,” he said. “I would like him to finish the season with us. But we are ready to go forward without him.
“We’ve lost [Leandro] Trossard. If we lose also Caicedo, that’s a problem for us. If we want to fight for Europe or the maximum we can get – I don’t like this.”
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