Belfast Telegraph

Stunned Liverpool fall at Europa League final hurdle

Sevilla 3-1 Liverpool

By Simon Hughes

The focus on what Liverpool might do was huge. Some fans had barely left Basel's Barfüsserplatz for two days.

Many travelled by car from Merseyside, staying in places 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 be here would be rewarded.

And yet Liverpool ended up being blown away by Sevilla, whose response after the break was devastating, causing Jurgen Klopp's team to wilt in the muggy and moody atmosphere.

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, there remains much for Klopp to do.

Sevilla's record in this competition felt forgotten: a club that had won it four times in the last decade and one which was attempting to take the trophy back to Andalusia for a record third season in succession.

There was a sense that this outcome would be determined by whoever deals with the fact that they were not performing on familiar territory.

Liverpool, indeed, had won just one of their last 12 European games away from Anfield. But they should have felt more at home. 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 challenged with stopping it.

Though fighting had stopped by the time riot police arrived, the skirmish fired the mood.

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.

By the break James Milner had clocked up almost 6km in running. First, he cracked into Ever Banega, then he did the same to Grzegorz Krychowiak, and when he left Steven N'Zonzi in a heap, each of Sevilla's midfield had been done by the Yorkshireman "in mining boots," as he described himself the other day.

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, none of the officials being able 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 were having fine games and both contributed to the moment, though by the time Sturridge received possession, there was still so much to do.

The only gap on offer required a perfect execution with the outside of his left boot and he was able to deliver it.

So often this season, Liverpool's defensive problems have arisen down the left side and once again, the area was exposed within 26 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 a potential surge forward by Brazilian Mariano. From there, Moreno's weak attempt to stop him allowed Kavin Gameiro to slip in the equaliser.

Liverpool were rattled. Doubt crept into their play and confidence dropped. It was not a surprise when Sevilla took the lead following a slick passing move involving Vitolo and Coke.

Sevilla's third became inevitable. The decision to let it stand initially appeared to be controversial as referee Jonas Eriksson overruled his flagging compatriot Mathias Klasenius.

Liverpool's players raced towards the touchline, infuriated that Coke had scored from what seemed an offside position.

Yet none of them, aside from Lallana, had spotted the final pass had come from a Liverpool player.

The Reds could just not get going again. Klopp became emotional, roaring at his fans to try and get them believing.

But his cause was lost and with that, Liverpool's season turned to ash.

LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Toure (Benteke, 80 mins), Moreno, Milner, Can, Lallana (Allen, 73 mins), Firmino (Origi, 69 mins), Coutinho, Sturridge.

Unused subs: Ward, Henderson, Lucas, Skrtel.

SEVILLA: Soria, Mariano, Rami (Kolodzieczak, 78 mins), Carrico, Escudero, Krychowiak, Nzonzi, Coke, Banega (Cristoforo, 90 mins), Vitolo, Gameiro (Iborra, 89 mins).

Unused subs: Sergio Rico, Pareja, Konoplyanka, Llorente

Man of the Match: Coke

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)

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