Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was left bemused as his side slumped to a 3-1 defeat against Aston Villa on Saturday, admitting it will take time for his top four ambitions to become a reality.
Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann gave Villa a shock 2-0 half-time lead at Anfield, before Benteke completed his brace in the 51st minute to put the result beyond doubt.
Liverpool slipped to 12th after the loss which ended the Reds' three-game winning streak in all competitions and Rodgers believes the result was not indicative of hosts' recent form.
"It was a bad day at the office," Rodgers said. "We're very disappointed and, I've got to be honest, I didn't see that coming. Our momentum and confidence coming into the game was as high as it's been.
"We had chances early on and didn't take them. We could easily have been 3-0 up in the game but we didn't make the final pass or have that big of quality in the top end of the field, and then we went on to concede some poor goals.
"The first goal we gave the ball away in our half of the field, and then our positioning wasn't great - Benteke gets the shot in too easily. The second goal we never tracked the runners into the box and the third, again, we gave the ball away in our own half.
"We're normally much stronger than that defensively so there is no doubt that, without taking too much from Aston Villa, it was very much self-inflicted today. The lads are very disappointed, because that wasn't us. That wasn't how we've been. We've had a good week's work but we were flat."
Ahead of Saturday's match, Rodgers argued that his side has the potential to chase down second-placed Manchester City, but he concedes that there is still plenty of work to do to even consider vying for a spot in Europe next season.
"All week we've been talking about the possibility of top four but for us it's going to be steady progress," Rodgers said. "There are going to be steps forwards, like we've done in the last couple of weeks, and today we made a step backwards.
"The great hope with this group is that they are very honest. They're bitterly disappointed, we all are. But we'll go into next week's work, reflect on it, and make sure we come back next week and are bang on where we've been for a lot of the season, which has been a much greater intensity to our game."
Liverpool's frustration with referees continued after Daniel Agger was denied a clear penalty when Ciaran Clark pulled his shirt in the area.
"I thought when it was 2-0 we should have had a penalty, Agger's one," he said. "I'm not sure what we're going to have to do to get a penalty. I thought Agger was outstanding today and he got pulled to the floor. That could have made it 2-1 and you've got the rest of the second half to get that pressure."