Basel 1: Streller 53'
Brendan Rodgers' eleven was again mostly as expected save for two changes--Philippe Coutinho came back into the side, but in place of Adam Lallana rather than Lazar Markovic, and Jose Enrique started at left-back rather than Alberto Moreno. The rest of the eleven was the same as at the weekend, with Markovic retaining his spot despite struggling to make an impact against Everton and Raheem Sterling starting his fifth match in a row since September 16th, a stretch that's seen him play at least 90 minutes in each of the previous four starts.
He'd make it five for five tonight, and while he was one of Liverpool's most involved in the evening, he was also the most wasteful, and the one who most clearly could have benefited from a night off. He had three or four clear chances and a number of other instances in which he was in threatening positions with the ball, and at each time of asking, he came up short, fatigued, and incapable of providing a finishing touch.
It was a dismal night on the whole for Liverpool--it wasn't just Sterling, or any one individual, really. It was just a lifeless, tired performance, the likes of which we were lucky enough to avoid for nearly the entirety of last season. The loss at Hull City was this squad's only real flirtation with abject mediocrity, but we've now been privy to no less than three performances this season that could match that.
At home to Villa, away to West Ham, and now in the Champions League, the competition everyone at Liverpool had apparently waited so long to return to, in a match that could have seen them edge closer to qualification after only two matches in group play. Instead they conceded another sloppy goal from a set piece and failed to provide much in the way of a response, with Jordan Henderson's influence neutered once again to accommodate Steven Gerrard and an attack that once again looked lost, even with marginally decent performances from Philippe Coutinho and Lazar Markovic.
There was no shooting out of the gates or tireless pressing, no flowing football or domination in possession. There was just a tired team out of ideas, one reliant on an overworked 19-year-old, a line-leader who's yet to show he can actually lead a line, and a captain past his prime on tired legs, playing for a manager who's either willfully ignorant to the changes to that must be made or scared of the real or imagined consequences that such changes might inflict. Liverpool needed more from their playing personnel tonight, but they also need more from Brendan Rodgers.
Liverpool are not done and buried in the Champions League, but if their performance tonight is repeated, they're most certainly short-term visitors in a competition in which they once had permanent residency. They are, across all competitions thus far, not a very good football team, and they must do far better.