Liam Shone covers Liverpool’s heartbreaking and season rendering Europa League final loss to Sevilla in Basel. It’s not all doom and gloom with Liverpool’s future bright. 

For a match that was lead up to  with such optimism and excitement from the Liverpool faithful, wanting to return to the glory of our illustrious past, it was an abysmal performance. It was  a match that completely held our season in the balance. Success or failure. New era of unprecedented success or the same old bottling Liverpool we’ve unfortunately become accustomed to in the last 10 years, and it was the latter that came to fruition.

The game started off like most would expect a major European final to, with neither side pushing the boat out too far and trying win the midfield battle. The only real talking points of the first half hour all concern the officials –  who, as many English clubs in Europe this year will agree – who were once again shambolic. Two clear handballs and a foul on Roberto Firmino all went unnoticed, but god forbid if a Sevilla player dare to be touched by a man in red.

It was looking fairly bleak all round, until one man decided to take action. And my word, did he take action. Finding himself with an inordinate amount of space in the Sevilla box, Daniel Sturridge, with one magical flick from the outside of his left boot, gave the game and Liverpool Football Club life. 1-0.

They began to look like the bloodthirsty monsters they were against Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal, relentlessly pressing every single movement, harassing them down the pitch winning corner after corner and cutting them to ribbons in the process. Then, with a towering header, Dejan Lovren looked as if he had given Liverpool that oh-so-precious second goal that would’ve changed the complexion of the cup final for good.

Alas, however, Daniel Sturridge was too eager and tried to get a flick on the ball, coming from an offside position and distracting the keeper, rendering Lovren’s effort useless. The first half ended 1-0 to the Reds who had spent the last 10 minutes of the half essentially living in the Sevilla final third.

Now, whatever happened between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second has dramatically changed Liverpool’s next 15 months and the outlook that the fans have. Sevilla came out raring to go, desperate to win the Europa league for a record-breaking third time in a row. And it took them just 17 seconds to get an equaliser. A combination of Alberto Moreno being more lost than an Everton fan on cup final day and beautiful passing from Sevilla made sure that this was well and truly a game that they were certainly here to win. 1-1.

Liverpool went into shellshock. They were playing as if they’d already won Europe’s second-tier prize and barely troubled what we already knew to be a shaky Sevilla defence.

Poor passing from James Milner and Emre Can allowed Sevilla to keep the pressure on our defence – mainly an incompetent Alberto Moreno – as the attacks continued to come. It was then in the 64th minute that a tremendously worked Sevilla goal arrived, and it was fully deserved. Coke finishing the move off with a superb finish, hard and low down to Mignolet’s left hand-side. The collapse began. 1-2.

It continued to go downhill from there for the reds who looked a wounded beast, failing to learn from their awful start to the second half with no real attacks coming anywhere near the Sevilla goal, who could definitely smell blood in the air.

And they pounced. It took just 6 minutes for them to get another and all but seal their win, with some more Sunday-league style defending from Liverpool, who failed to clear the ball twice before the ball landed at the feet of an extremely grateful Coke, who placed the ball with ease past a helpless Simon Mignolet. Initially questions were asked about offside, however it soon became clear that the deflection came from a man in red, and the goal stood. Alberto Moreno at this point still failing to realise that he is indeed a professional footballer who gets paid a lot of real money to defend. 1-3.

From then on the rest of the match seemed a formality, with Liverpool completely failing to show that never say die attitude we’ve become famous for. Pointless long balls and chasing shadows was all that ensued for the final 20 minutes, before the referee ended our suffering and blew for full time. Sevilla were once again European champions, completing their hat-trick of Europa League titles.

Despite what turned out to be an abysmal evening, two men can hold their heads high after that performance. 35-year-old Kolo Toure gave a sensational performance. According to winning 100% of his tackles, clearing the ball 18 times as well as pulling off 5 blocks and 3 interceptions. The other, was Daniel Sturridge. He produced a moment of magic in the first half which gave us all hope that we may be returning to the big time.

So, with all said and done and with Sevilla fans partying long and hard into the night I must ask, where do LFC go from here?

It surely can’t all be doom and gloom? With reports of 3 young players already on their way to Liverpool, and with another 2 already signed, Jürgen Klopp is finally starting to develop the squad he wants. And we saw what a season without European football did for us under Brendan Rodgers, who says Klopp can’t pull off a similar season? The thought of not being able to see the reds playing all over Europe doesn’t feel fair or just after the campaign we’ve had.

However, this is now the reality so we just have to make the best of the hand we’ve been dealt. Klopp will finally have his first full pre-season with a squad that will be much more to his style, as well as getting rid of a lot (and I mean A LOT) of the deadwood around Anfield, it’s not all bad. And under Klopp we’re most certainly heading in the right direction.

Do I wish I were typing this with Liverpool winning yet another European trophy and earning a spot in the oh-so-precious Champions League? Of course I do. But will I also be heading into the new season full of optimism due to the astonishingly good work we’ve seen from Klopp and his team already? Damn right I will be.

Bring on next season. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

This was Liam’s first article for Rousing the Kop. Drop a comment to let him know how he’s done!

Featured Image – The Gleaner

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