Liverpool’s European dreams vanish in an instant

Written by Ben Blaschke

Three goals in 25 second-half minutes from Spanish side Sevilla was all it took to end Liverpool’s dreams of winning their first major European trophy in over a decade – and with ensured another season with no Champions League participation.

The Europa League final in Basel was a night to forget for Reds fans. Despite a very strong performance in the first half where Daniel Sturridge’s brilliant flick gave the Reds a 1-0 lead, they fell apart completely in the second half as Sevilla made it three Europa League titles in a row.

Strangely, Liverpool didn’t show the intensity and never-say-die attitude they had displayed so often to reach the final with Jürgen Klopp’s side looking nervous from the outset. They misdirected some usually easy passes and didn’t press high enough to pressure their opponents. Klopp’s ferocious body language eventually encouraged the players to press higher on the pitch and for the final 20 minutes of the first half they were clearly the better side and well deserved their 1-0 lead at the break.

But after the interval the defending champions increased the pace and power of the match. The turning point was Kévin Gameiro’s tap-in goal just 20 seconds into the second half.

Alberto Moreno, a former Sevilla youth product and boyhood Sevilla fan, was the one to blame when he plated an easy pass to their offensive winger Ferreira and then let himself get “nut-megged” in the lead-up. For Klopp, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

“Obviously the first goal had a big influence on our game,” said the Liverpool manager, who has now lost his last five Cup finals. “At this moment we lost faith in our style of play, we changed from passing quick and simple to complicated and we lost our formation. It was not compact anymore.”

It is also a worrying pattern for the Reds as they are struggled to defend a lead yet again. The most obvious example this season was their recent league clash against Southampton when they failed to capitalize on a two goal lead and allowed their opponents a memorable fightback. World class defenders are need to provide options over Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure, while Martin Skrtel and Moreno are little more than liabilities in defense. The Basel final was a “lesson” for Klopp, but not one he or the fans will remember with any fondness.