Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson had to reluctantly accept his side are now in a relegation battle after Blackpool pulled off a stunning 2-1 win at Anfield here on Sunday.
A Charlie Adam penalty and a brilliant finish from Luke Varney helped the Premier League’s smallest and poorest club beat the most successful side in English football history.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos scored a fine header after the break to breathe fresh hope into Liverpool after they had gone into half-time at 2-0 down.
But although the Reds pressed hard, some gutsy defending from Ian Holloway’s side enabled them to hold on for a memorable win that pushed them up into ninth place in the top flight.
The result leaves Liverpool with just six points from their opening seven matches and piles the pressure on Hodgson, who also oversaw the recent humiliating League Cup exit at the hands of lowly Northampton Town.
To make matters worse, Liverpool saw top striker Fernando Torres last only 10 minutes against Blackpool before limping off with a groin strain.
Liverpool are third from bottom in the Premier League and are below fellow Merseyside strugglers Everton on goal difference.
“You can say that — it’s seven games, there are 31 left, which is an awful lot of games, but the fact is that when you are in the relegation zone you are in a relegation battle,” Hodgson said.
“Things look bleak and really, really bad and I can’t put a brave face on it,” added the veteran English manager, who arrived at Anfield in pre-season having won plaudits for his work in reviving Fulham.
“I can only take heart from the fact that the spirit is still there.
“It’s a bad day and a very bad result and a great day for Blackpool but their great result is our nightmare result.”
However, Hodgson backed himself to turn Liverpool’s current predicament around and considers it laughable the 18-times English champions could indeed be relegated.
“After 35 years in football I don’t think that I have suddenly lost my ability as a manager, and I have faith in my ability to handle this situation,” he said.
“We are very, very unhappy that after four home games and three away we have six points and that is not acceptable.
“We have a lot of work to turn the situation around. But with 31 games left to play I am absolutely convinced Liverpool will not be in the bottom three at the end of the season.
“Whether we can fulfil our ambition of finishing towards the top is another matter after the start we have had.
“But when you saw the way we played in the second half, I am incredulous that anyone can suggest we will finish in the bottom three.”
Hodgson’s understandably dour demeanour after the match was in stark contrast to Holloway’s and the Blackpool boss could not believe that his small side had managed to pull off the Tangerines’ first win over Liverpool since 1967.
The Blackpool contigent chanted his name at the end of the game and the whole of Anfield clapped the visitors off the field — a sign of respect from Liverpool’s fans that Holloway appreciated.
“We scored two genuine good goals at Anfield and to be able to say that is like one of the dreams I’ve had for years,” he said.
“I’m so proud of the lads and they held on in sensational form. Our fans will remember this for years.
“I came here once with QPR and we played so well and they clapped us off then as well. I think these supporters have seen some of the best football over the years and there was no better team in the world when I was playing, so to get that was amazing.”
Holloway also acknowledged Torres’s injury gave his side a massive boost.
“To see the best striker in the world limp off after a few minutes, I can’t tell you what that did for us,” he added.
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