Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher launched a strong attack on his former club's defensive frailties after they conceded three late goals against Crystal Palace and all-but surrender their Premier League title hopes.
While Liverpool will still have an outside chance to claim title glory in their final game of the season against Newcastle on Sunday, manager Brendan Rodgers has conceded his side's Premier League dream is over following the 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park.
Speaking passionately on Sky Sports after the game, Carragher claimed Liverpool only had themselves to blame for their late collapse in south London, as he pulled few punches in giving his verdict on the Reds backline.
"You can't feel sorry for Liverpool in this situation because the standard of their defending is not acceptable," stated Carragher, who hung up his boots last summer after 508 Premier League appearances for the Anfield club. "They have received plaudits over the last few months and deservedly so because they have been the most outstanding team in the Premier League to watch, they have excited us all, but that [defending] has been their Achilles heal all season.
"Even when they have been winning games, it's been 4-3, it's 6-3, it's 3-2 and we always felt that their defence would come back and haunt them with the goals they conceded. This was the night when that back four and the goals they conceded as a team defensively came back to haunt them.
"The strikers normally get them out of jail and at 3-2, Sturridge and Suarez nearly got them out of jail again, but you can't keep conceding goals at this level and expect to win big trophies.
"It's not acceptable they way they finished that game in the last 20 minutes, but we have been saying for months now that the defensive side of this team is not up to scratch and it is not up to the level of Premier League champions."
Carragher singled out goal keeper Simon Mignolet and central defenders Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho for specific criticism, as he suggested Liverpool's team lacks leaders in their defensive ranks.
"They concede too many goals," continued Carragher. "The back four and defensive side of this team have shown they can't cope. We saw it at Norwich. They drop back into the back, Sakho, Skrtel, they don't push out enough. They are good players, but they are not leaders.
"I look at those centre-backs and they are weak mentally for me. In tough away games, you have to push out, drive out and your goalkeeper as well. I don't think there is enough communication between the centre-backs and the goalkeeper especially.
"I don't think Brendan Rodgers is the biggest fan of Daniel Agger and that's why he leaves him out, but Sakko and Skrtel have played 17 games together all season and have kept one clean sheet. They always conceded goals when they play together. Sakho makes you nervous.
"Liverpool have got away for a long time conceding goals, but they have got to the penultimate game of the season and it's finally caught up with them. I don't think that Brendan Rodgers is disorganized defensively, it's just that his defenders don't think like defenders and that has cost them again."