Liverpool were blown away here by Sevilla, whose response in the second half was so devastating, it caused Jürgen Klopp’s team to wither in the muggy and moody atmosphere of the setting.
This was a night that reminded the distance Liverpool need to travel to compete on football’s grandest stage. Defeat means they will not feature in European competition next season. Having confirmed their eighth place finish in the Premier League last weekend, there remains so much for Klopp to do.
Some supporters had barely left Basle's Barfüsserplatz for two days. Many travelled by car from Merseyside, staying in places close by like Mulhouse in France and Freiburg in Germany. The principle figures from Fenway Sports Group jetted in from the United States and based themselves in Zurich.
Thanks to Daniel Sturridge’s stunning first half goal, it seemed like each person's determination to reach Switzerland would be rewarded in the kindest way.
And yet, ultimately, none of Liverpool’s key players were on their game. The weaker ones were exposed for what they are, and for the second time this season – after defeat to Manchester City at the League Cup final in February – the occasion got to them. Liverpool really need to sign players who can lift the levels of others. The probability of that happening may have just reduced considerably.
Sevilla's record in this competition felt forgotten: being a club that had already won it four times in the last decade and one, which, by winning this one, took the trophy back to Andalusia for the third year in succession.
No administrator in world football is respected quite as much as Monchi, Sevilla’s sporting director whose eye for a recruit is so sharp, he turns what might be considered elsewhere as pig iron into gold. No other administrator, perhaps, would lead the squad out instead of the manager for the pre-match stroll around the pitch to receive the kind of raucous reception afforded to him. His presence, indeed, should remind Liverpool’s owners where they have got it wrong. Buying potential is fine so long as there is a sprinkling of stardust and leadership to bring it along. If not, this is what happens.
Monchi might have all of the answers in the transfer market but it would be beyond his remit to do anything about Sevilla’s dreadful away form this season, having failed to win a single match in La Liga.
There was a sense that this outcome would be determined by whoever dealt with the fact they were not standing on familiar territory. Liverpool too had won just one of their last 12 European games away from Anfield.
Inside the fuggy air of this compact ground, Liverpool should have felt more comfortable. Almost three sides of the capacity was theirs. Astonishingly, none of the organisers decided it was necessary to have segregation at one end where only concrete steps separated rival sets of supporters.
What followed was a clash between 15 and 20 people while the players warmed up. A few stewards were charged with stopping it. Though the fighting had stopped by the time riot police arrived to form a cordon facing the Sevilla fans, the skirmish fired the general feeling.
Sevilla’s midfield was ample in flesh, their defence bulky and tall. Liverpool would need to be aggressive to pass them. The fact that Unai Emery sent four substitutes out at half time to warm up reflected Liverpool’s dominance.
Liverpool’s lead should have been greater than it was. They should have had two – maybe even three penalties awarded to them in the opening 45 minutes; the clearest of which was the most obvious you are ever likely to see, unless you are Jonas Eriksson of Sweden or any of his two refereeing assistants within 10 to 15 yards of the incident; none of them being able to spot Daniel Carriço moving his arm in front of the ball as Roberto Firmino flicked it past him.
Sturridge’s opener was breathtakingly brilliant. Firmino and Adam Lallana both contributed to the moment, though by the time Sturridge received possession, there was still so much to do. The only gap to use required a perfect execution with the outside of a left boot and he was able to deliver it.
So often this season, though, Liverpool’s defensive problems have been down its left side, and once again the area was exposed here within 17 seconds of the second half. Alberto Moreno’s header wasn’t necessarily the absolute cause because it was seemingly away from danger, but he did not account for the potential surge forward by Brazilian Mariano. From there, Moreno’s weak attempt to stop him allowed Kévin Gameiro to slot home the equaliser.
Liverpool were rattled. Doubt crept into their play and confidence dropped. It was not a surprise when Sevilla took the lead in the manner they did following a slick passing move involving Vitolo and captain, Coke.
Suddenly, Liverpool’s paralysis was overwhelming. Sevilla’s third became inevitable. The decision to let it stand initially appeared to be controversial as referee Eriksson overruled his flagging compatriot, Mathias Klasenius. Liverpool’s players raced towards the touchline infuriated that Coke had scored from what may have been an offside position. Yet none of them, aside from Lallana, had spotted that the final pass had come from a Liverpool player. Lallana was the one who had stumbled into a challenge on the edge of the box.
With 20 minutes remaining, Liverpool required a comeback of Borussia Dortmund proportions but they could just not get going again. Sevilla had been too swift and ruthless.
Klopp became emotional, roaring at his supporters to try and get the team believing. But his cause was lost and with that, Liverpool's season turned to ash.
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