"It's very frustrating," admitted Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen following Thursday night's disappointing loss to Serie A side Udinese. "To be leading 1-0 at home, controlling the game and looking very comfortable, but then come off the pitch with nothing is a bitter pill to swallow.
"In the last 20 minutes, we really did throw everything at them. We created some good chances and played some good attacking, fast-flowing football. But unfortunately, that five-minute spell really, really cost us and we'll have to learn from it going into our next European encounter."
That five-minute spell Allen is referring to came just past the 65 minute mark, with Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez coming on for Jordan Henderson and Oussama Assaidi. It was a change intended by manager Brendan Rodgers to provide a more attacking edge to a side that had faded in the second half, but instead it ended with Liverpool going from level to two goals down by the 72nd minute, with the removal of Henderson the key factor in Liverpool's sudden defensive instability.
As much as it might seem instinctively sound to simply add more attacking options when one is seeking to win a football match, those attackers still need a solid foundation from which to build on and players willing to cover for when their sense of adventure leads to turnovers. Allen's intent might be to focus on those on the pitch when Udinese scored, but a big part of the problem was caused by removing a holding option that was amongst Liverpool's best players on the day for the more attacking Steven Gerrard rather than replacing Jonjo Shelvey—whose game had clearly suffered in the second half—in a like for like swap. It was a move that invited the canny, veteran Italian side to pounce.
Still, on a day when Liverpool out-passed and out-shot their opponents by a 3:1 margin and dominated for long stretches it can't all be negatives, and fans will hope that for the players and their young manager who is overseeing his first European action, Thursday's stumble will eventually be seen as another step on the road to getting things right. And that's something Allen's eager to focus on, no matter that the result itself was hugely disappointing—and hugely disappointing in part because of how well Liverpool played for most of the night.
"We're all looking forward to some fantastic results," he said, "which will come I'm sure. It's difficult to enjoy a match when you come off with nothing, but we'll try to come away and look at the positives—and I think there were some fantastic individual performances and good elements to the team performance."
And he's absolutely right, there were some fantastic individual performances. Now it's a matter taking the next step and putting all of Liverpool's disparate solid moments and individual performances together to find a solid, 90-minute team performance.