Mauricio Pochettino blamed a mixture of bad luck and a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal for what he described as an “unfair” 3-0 defeat by Liverpool.

The title chasing Reds secured an important victory at St Mary’s thanks to goals from Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and a Steven Gerrard penalty.

Both teams squandered other good chances in an open game, but it was Saints who really paid the price against a side with one of the best goals per games ratio in any European top flight.

Pochettino said: “We created many chances in the first half and we deserved a lot more from that first half .

“It should have been a different result, but we needed to be more clinical in the first half.

“We were unlucky not to score and then Sterling came on and with his first touch it was 2-0.

“It was very difficult from then on to kick on and keep pushing.

“Overall, with the team’s performance, it was an unfair result but I do have to say Liverpool were a lot more clinical than we were.”

One of the chief differences between the teams was Suarez.

“He’s definitely one of the best in the world, that’s clear,” reflected Pochettino of the striker with 24 Premier League goals in just 23 starts this season.

“We were speaking about that before the game.

“He is showing throughout this entire season the skill and the quality that makes him one of the best in the world.”

Saints were competing well in the first half with Liverpool, who switched their formation to play two up front.

“It is flattering in a way that he (Brendan Rodgers) changes his formation just to play against Southampton,” admitted Pochettino.

“Overall Southampton were dominating the entire first half and that’s why Liverpool changed their formation.

“Overall we were very unlucky and when you are unlucky, and you are also playing against a player such as Suarez, it is always going to be very difficult.”

Saints did have an early penalty shout turned down when Adam Lallana went down in the box under the challenge of Jon Flanagan, but referee Lee Probert was unmoved.

“From my point of view it was difficult to see if it was a penalty,” added the Saints boss.

“Overall we were unlucky in many respects, as we were in the last game (at West Ham).

“Also overall we weren’t clinical, and when you’re not clinical against a team such as Liverpool it is going to be very difficult to get something positive out of the game.”