The bare, concrete corridor in the Ataturk Stadium was no place to ask Brendan Rodgers if Liverpool were better off out of the Europa League.
They had been, as the Besiktas manager, Slaven Bilic, pointed out, the favourites to win the tournament and the Champions League place that went with it. They had got nowhere near the final, eliminated through the cruelty of a penalty shoot-out, and all that remained was a crawl through Istanbul’s choking traffic, a four-hour flight to Merseyside and a single frantic day to prepare for Manchester City.
Liverpool’s season may be reaching breaking point. Rodgers was barely able to fill central midfield for the encounter with Besiktas and he would have known Bilic was right when he described Liverpool as “fading, fading, fading” as the game dragged on towards penalties.
One of the reasons Liverpool – who lost £90m in the 22 months to the end of the 2012-13 season – are so confident they will not face any Financial Fair Play penalties, when Uefa delivers its sanctions, is that they are set to announce a small profit for last season. This season, because of the Champions League, they will generate a substantial one.
Liverpool's astonishing penalty-taking record
Liverpool's astonishing penalty-taking record
1/5 Leeds vs Liverpool, Charity Shield - 1974
Perhaps one of Liverpool's most famous penalty victories, even immortalised in the film The Damned United, saw Bill Shankly get one over on newly-installed Leeds boss Brian Clough. After the match finished 1-1 at Wembley, it took seven rounds of penalties to see off Leeds.
2/5 Liverpool vs Birmingham, Worthington Cup final - 2001
In the first domestic cup final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, as work began on the new Wembley, Liverpool once again dispatched Birmingham after the two side's played out a 1-1 draw in normal time. Oddly enough, it was defender Jamie Carragher who scored the winning spot-kick.
3/5 Liverpool vs Ipswich Town, Worthington Cup fourth-round - 2002
Relegation-haunted Ipswich Town came to Anfield looking for some light relief in the cup. The almost found it as Tommy Miller put them ahead in the early stages, but El Hadji Diouf's penalty saved the day. It was the Senegalese star who also put away the all-important spot-kick to send the Tractor Boys empty-handed.
4/5 Liverpool vs Middlesbrough, Capital One Cup third-round - 2014
A weakened Liverpool side won a record-equalling penalty shootout 14-13 to progress to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup at Middlesbrough's expense. Albert Adomah blinked first for the Boro.
5/5 Besiktas vs Liverpool, Europa League round of 32 - 2015
Dejan Lovren was the villian as Liverpool lost their first European penalty shootout to allow Besiktas to knock them out of the Europa League. After losing the match 1-0 (1-1 on aggregate), Brendan Rodgers' men knew history was on their side in penalties. The former Southampton man will be avoiding the newspapers today.
However, to get back in among Europe’s elite, Liverpool have still to travel to both Arsenal and Chelsea while facing both Manchester clubs at Anfield. The strain on what is still a relatively young side is almost tangible.
“We will only see at the end of the season,” said Rodgers when asked if Thursday night’s elimination might be a blessing in disguise. “It is never a good feeling when you lose. You could see what we put into this competition and what it meant to us to go forward.
“We have now played more games than we did in the whole of last season but we are prepared to fight all the way through. We have a Champions League place to fight for and an FA Cup quarter-final to play. We still have our objectives and we will do everything we can to achieve them.”
The one advantage Rodgers has is that this season Liverpool have learnt the art of recovery.
Their insipid Champions League campaign was not helped by the fact that they won only two domestic fixtures following their big European nights.
Their manager argued that the template for tomorrow’s encounter with Manchester City had to be the way Liverpool responded to defeat in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup to Chelsea.
They lost that tie late on in extra time over two legs. And they will have had greater cause for disappointment: Rodgers argued that they had played better against Chelsea than they had against Besiktas – and they had been far closer to making the final. Their season might have broken down there and then; instead, Liverpool won six of their next seven matches.
Significantly, their last four games have been without Steven Gerrard. If Liverpool wanted a glimpse of the future, with Emre Can in central midfield rather than the man who has inspired them for a decade, they have had it. And it is probably nothing to be frightened of.
“Stevie is still an influence,” said Rodgers. “But by the same token, you have to prepare the team going forward and, if you look around this team, there is a lot of exciting young talent. Stevie is a positive influence but for us life will go on.”Reuse content