The Europa League final didn’t do its pre-game party justice, writes Chris McLoughlin from Basel, but the Reds boss is optimistic it will all turn out to be just fine for the Anfield side…
The week in five words
Liverpool choke on Sevilla’s Coke.
What went well
Banners were draped from every vantage point, flares turned the air smoke red and song after song rang out with the tune the Kop have adopted this season – Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds
Basel was a sea of red on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. Thousands upon thousands of Liverpool supporters poured into Switzerland from every possible direction, on every mode of transport – and boy was the pre-match party good.
The Barfusserplatz, one of Basel’s main squares, was at the centre of it all. Banners were draped from every vantage point, flares turned the air smoke red and song after song rang out with the tune the Kop have adopted this season – Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds – and You’ll Never Walk Alone echoing around the city centre.
You could sense the belief. There was a buzz of expectation in the air. Perhaps even, in light of the recent Hillsborough inquests verdict, a feeling of destiny that there would be a significant victory on the pitch after an even more significant one off it. But it wasn’t to be. The Europa League final was lost. And that will always tarnish the positive pre-match memories.
What followed was a dire display lacking character, composure and belief – the qualities that got the Reds to the Europa League final in the first place
When the half-time whistle was blown in St Jakob-Park, with Liverpool a Daniel Sturridge goal to the good against Sevilla, Jurgen Klopp sprinted down the touchline to ensure he was back in the Liverpool dressing room before his players.
Unfortunately they didn’t show the same energy and desire when they came back onto the pitch. You know how Istanbul gets mentioned at every available opportunity? Well, this was the opposite. Liverpool did a Milan.
As soon as Kevin Gameiro equalised – 17 seconds after the break when Alberto Moreno’s defensive weaknesses were again exposed – heads went down alarmingly quickly. What followed was a dire display lacking character, composure and belief – the qualities that got the Reds to the Europa League final in the first place.
In short, Liverpool choked and Sevilla capitalised, with Coke netting twice to earn the Andalusians an impressive third Europa League success on the spin and a competition record-extending fifth title.
The Reds have now managed to lose a Champions League final (2007), FA Cup final (2012), League Cup final (2016) and Europa League final (2016) in the space of a barren decade in which only a single League Cup (2012) has been lifted. It makes for grim reading for a club used to returning from finals with silverware.
Quote of the week
“We are responsible for not being in the Champions League next season but now we have to use the time. We have to use it. We have to use it. It's not about the size of the squad or how many players we have, it's about using the time for training to get better, using this experience tonight and I promise everyone, we will use it. We will use it. We will come back stronger 100 per cent.” – Jurgen Klopp, turning a negative into a positive.
Video of the week
Every little thing wasn’t alright in the end, but the pre-match party was a lot of fun for the travelling Kop.
— Liverpool FC News (@LivEchoLFC) May 18, 2016
Winner of the week
Such a thing doesn’t really exist in a week when Liverpool have lost Europa League final, but it has to be Joel Matip. The Cameroon international centre-half will arrive from Schalke on a free in July and looks a dead cert to go straight into a side that needs to find a new Sami Hyypia – a commanding leader and organiser at the back. The 24-year-old will need some help, though, not least at left-back where a new arrival is a priority, to shore up a defence that few Kopites have much confidence in.
Loser of the week
It may yet to turn out to be Jurgen Klopp. Having missed out on Champions League qualification by losing to Sevilla, there won’t be any European football at Anfield in 2016/17.
Put a positive spin on it and you could say it means the Reds can ‘concentrate on the league’, but the fear is that signing the top-class players Liverpool evidently still need will now become a darn sight harder for Klopp this summer without Champions League football to dangle as a carrot. Potentially, it could set the Reds back a long way.