Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers tonight said that Basel defender Behrang Safari should have been sent off for his theatrics in getting Lazar Markovic dismissed during the side’s Champions League elimination at the hands of Swiss side Basel.
Markovic threw a hand back at Safari as the Swedish-Iranian player pursued him on the hour during the 1-1 draw which relegates Liverpool to the Europa League, catching him with his fingertips on the nose. Rodgers admitted that Liverpool had not been good enough to qualify for the Champions League knock-out stage. But he said of the dismissal: “It was disappointing. The fingernail hardly touches he nose of the defender. The defender is the one who should be looked at. He should be looked at and sent off for that reaction. I thought a lot of decisions tonight were disappointing. It’s not the Premier League and we understand that. But the decision was certainly very disappointing.”
Basel manager Paulo Sousa challenged Rodgers’ claim. “It’s not for me to contest these decisions. It’s for me to be proactive and make decisions through the team. I will not contest what Rodgers is saying. From what I understand from this player he is not this kind of player.”
Rodgers’ captain Steven Gerrard, who scored his 100 Anfield goal to secure an equaliser and hopes of a late winner to avoid Champions League elimination, said the side had simply not deserved to go through. Asked if Liverpool had deserved better from their Champions League campaign, Gerrard said: "No. We haven't gone out of the competition because of our performance tonight, we've gone out because away at Basle we weren't good enough, in our last game we conceded a stupid goal towards injury time. You always qualify over the six games and unfortunately we haven't been good enough."
Rodgers said that Liverpool must now ensure they do not face the same five-year wait to regain a place in the Champions League football that they endured before qualifying for this season’s competition. “We will fight as hard as we can to make sure it’s not another five years,” he said.
Sousa pointed out that Liverpool had not had a shot on target until Gerrard scored his equaliser. “[They have] Quality players where they have the capacity, all the time, to change the game in small moments,” he said. “The first opportunity to shoot with Steven they score and it created some difficulty in the end of the game. It gave us much more strength.”
Rodgers also admitted Liverpool’s shortcomings. “In the first half we were not good enough and technically way short,” he said. “Our position was not good; our positions for the guy on the ball was not what we would expect. We had the courage to go and play in the second off. We looked like we could get the goal but the final pass let us down. The Europa League is still a very prestigious tournament and hopefully by that stage our performance level will have improved greatly.”
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