clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Liverpool 1, FC Basel 1: Champions League Elimination

Liverpool's desperate efforts in the closing stages of the game were not enough to qualify out of a kindly Champions League group.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Liverpool 1: Gerrard 81'
Basel 1: Frei 25'

Before the game, there was much trepidation about Liverpool's lack of attacking threat and scoring goals at home has been all season. Brendan Rodgers talked up Liverpool's prospects before the game and has been under increasing criticism from fans who have been confused about why Liverpool have regressed so much this season. This is a big week for Liverpool with qualification for the Champions League knock-out stages at stake followed by a crucial away trip to great rivals Manchester United.

Fabio Borini was absent from the squad once again, and his future conclusively lies elsewhere. Kolo Touré's groin strain meant an earlier recall than planned for £20 million defender Dejan Lovren to partner Martin Skrtel. While Rickie Lambert continuing upfront was a worry, the match fitness of José Enrique would be severely tested in such a high pressure game as the Spanish left back started the game. Brendan Rodgers referenced Liverpool's illustrious history in the Champions League, but who would score the goals to take Liverpool through?

liverpool blog fc sbn

In the opening ten minutes, there was a lively battle between lively Raheem Sterling on the right and Basel left-back Behrang Safari. Was Liverpool's most dangerous threat early on in the game. Henderson was full of the running that has been missing in for the past couple of months as Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen selected as the two players in the double pivot. Early in the game, Rickie Lambert 's predilection for being offside continued from previous appearances in a game that was frustrating to watch. It wasn't a flowing affair, full of misplaced passes, scrappy passages of play, no clear cut chances, and very little for Liverpool fans to take confidence from. The visiting side weren't much better, but they didn't need to be. Their task was to avoid defeat, far different to the one Liverpool had to complete.

Raheem Sterling was put through on the right side of the area where he the youngster could have shot from a somewhat tight angle or cut the ball back to a Liverpool player for a good shooting opportunity. Sterling chose the second option and was unconvincing in doing so. It was to be the first of many passes in the final third that Sterling couldn't quite execute accurately following good runs on and off the ball. FC Basel were dangerous on the counter attack and looked more likely to score, and score they did from a long rang shot from Fabian Frei. The man has now scored at Old Trafford, White Hart Lane, and Anfield. Frei exchanged passes with the lively Luca Zuffi and shot low past Mignolet's left into the corner of the net.

Basel took control of the game from there and should have been ahead by two goals by half time. They were sharper to loose and second balls, attacked swiftly between Liverpool's centre backs and fullbacks, and defended stoutly when Liverpool threw predictable balls into their box. Lazar Marković and Alberto Moreno came on for Rickie Lambert and José Enrique respectively for a more attacking outlook. Without a striker on the pitch, Liverpool needed a different approach to building attacks and a player who could provide the home side with impetus.

Marković was lively when he came on and made some impressive, direct runs in the 15 minutes he was on the field before he was sent off for deliberately aiming the tips of his fingers at another player while dribbling away from him. Behrang Safari made the slightest of connections, if any were actually made, appear to be the cause of unbelievable and agonising pain. While Liverpool were unlikely to find a way back into the game, this decision made a required victory seemingly impossible for a players who played without cohesion, purpose, and familiarity. However, losing the brightest player on the field at that time triggered a reaction from Liverpool as the home side pushed for a goal far more convincingly with ten men. There were still some frustrating passages of play but Liverpool played with a good tempo against a side with an extra player, even if quality was still lacking.

With around twenty minutes ago, Liverpool appealed for a penalty after the FC Basel goalkeeper challenged Steven Gerrard for the ball and Liverpool's captain went down inside the area. Tomas Vaclik was first to the ball. Gerrard goal with less than ten minutes to go created a real cup tie in the closing minutes as both teams tried to score to ensure qualification from the group. Steven Gerrard's free kick at the Kop End flew into the top corner with the aid of the inside of the post. The home crowd responded with passion, energy, hope, and noise. Zuffi had a shot saved by Mignolet. Taulant Xhaka got behind the Liverpool defence to blast over. Henderson's deflected header looked to be heading in but was routinely saved on the line. In the four minutes of added on time, there were chances for both sides but Liverpool were eliminated despite desperate efforts at the death.

liverpool blog fc sbn

It was a strange night as Liverpool didn't deserve to qualify over the performances shown in the six Champions League group games, FC Basel's celebrations at Anfield after game added to a bitter night, but Liverpool ended the game showing the fight and intent absent from many performances this season. Liverpool were better in the last ten minutes with ten men than eleven for most of the game, although FC Basel could have scored with greater composure when they broke through. It's difficult to criticise the players with the effort at the end but the terrible first half condemned Liverpool to unnecessary struggles. Brendan Rodgers' side has consistently failed to start with the sort of intensity shown last season, but the level has dropped far beyond average levels and that needs to change.

Liverpool are struggling for goals but winning one game in six group stage games isn't a recipe for qualification. The Europa League beckons next year and offers Liverpool a chance of Champions League qualification if they can win the competition. Before that, Liverpool face Manchester United this weekend and need to provide a resounding response to a disappointing result and season so far. Brendan Rodgers has work to do with a side that has looked average for the majority of the season to date.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Liverpool Offside Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Liverpool FC news from Liverpool Offside