Liverpool 1 Sturridge 35'
Sevilla 3 Gameiro 46', Coke 64' 70'
After a bright and impressive first that could've easily seen Liverpool lead the game by three or four, the Reds fail to show up for the second half and are cut to pieces by an historic Sevilla side who claim the Europa League title for the third year running.
Jürgen Klopp played his strongest XI and repeated the line-up from last Wednesday's Chelsea game, deplying Daniel Sturridge as a lone striker ahead of Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho. James Milner and Emre Can made up the double pivot, and Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Kolo Toure and Alberto Moreno rounded out the back four.
After a cagey start that saw the game take place in midfield, and where some chippy play was exacerbated by a referee intent on calling every single duel a foul, the game came to life after ten minutes. A Clyne cross to the far post was met by Sturridge, but his header back towards the far post was cleared off the line by a Sevilla defender. Moments later, Firmino went past Sergio Escudero in Sevilla's box, and the defender prevented the ball from going past him with his arm, before sticking out a leg and catching the Brazilian. The Swedish referee, who up until that point had called a foul every minute, saw nothing wrong and waved play on.
On twenty-four minutes, Lallana played a delightful ball into Sturridge, but the striker's chip was saved for a corner by David Soria. Sevilla had their first look on goal ten minutes later, as Kevin Gameiro sent an overhead kick wide following a corner.
After thirty-five minutes, the final was given its first glimpse of true world-class, courtesy Daniel Sturridge. The striker was handed the ball on the left side of Sevilla's box by Coutinho. With Moreno bearing down on the overlap, fullback Mariano was caught in two minds, giving the England striker just enough space to curl and outside-the-boot finish past the goalkeeper in at the far post. It was a fantastic finish and one worthy of the occasion.
Liverpool were dominant for the rest of the half, creating chances every few minutes. Another Clyne cross lead to a shot from Lallana that was blocked for a corner, before Lovren headed home after a set piece, but had his goal scratched off as an offside Sturridge was interfering with play. A fantastic piece of gegenpressing from Milner lead to the third handball shout of the half - this one indisputable - as Grzegorz Krychowiak stopped Sturridge's through ball with an outstretched hand. The referee again failed to make the call.
Just before half time, another excellent piece of football from the Reds culminated in another Clyne cross, this one narrowly missed by Sturridge five yards out. Liverpool could've easily been up three or four and the players must've felt good about their display.
That all changed in the second half, though, as Sevilla came on like they were shot out of a cannon and the Reds failed to show up. Twenty seconds into the half, Moreno was nutmegged in the box by Mariano, and the fullback's cross found Gameiro two yards from goal for the tap-in. The French striker - linked with Liverpool on several occasions over the past few years - was played through minutes later, but denied by Touré in the box.
The Reds were unable to get anything going after the equaliser, and after fifteen minutes, Gameiro was gifter another huge opportunity, when three players entered and lost an aerial contest with the alpine Stephen N'Zonzi, and Moreno and Touré failed to mark the French striker, but Simon Mignolet was equal to the finish. It didn't matter three minutes later, though, as Vitolo waltzed through a passive Liverpool midfield, nutmegged Lovren, and Coke could bury the ball in the far corner from 18 yards.
Klopp brought on Divock Origi for Firmino, but only a minute later Sevilla were up by two, as some sloppy Liverpool defending saw the Sevilla captain receive the ball in an offside position and tuck the ball past Mignolet. The linesman had his flag up, but given that the ball was played to him by a Liverpool player, the referee correctly allowed the goal to stand.
Not much happened for the remaining twenty minutes, as the Liverpool team were unable to create anything of note despite bringing on Benteke and Allen, and Sevilla were happy to sit back and hit the Reds on the counter. There was to be no comeback this time, and no European football for the Reds next year.
We are sad now.
It is hard to say exactly what happened at half time that caused the Liverpool players to so completely fail to show up in the second half. They were cruising, and if not for some horrible refereeing should've been up by a goal or two more, but the absolute capitulation that saw them register a single shot in the first 30 minutes of the second period, all while conceding three goals seems almost unforgivable.
With Coutinho going missing for most of the match and Moreno being at fault for a lot of what went wrong defensively, fans will have their scapegoats, but this was a teamwide failure to perform, and every player - along with the manager - must take responsibility. The only people who deserve to remain blameless are the fans, who created an incredible atmosphere for the entirety of the match.
With the season now officially over, next season - one without any European football - seems far, far away, and the importance of the transfer window seems more marked than it did only hours ago. Fans will hope Klopp can get the players he wants despite the lack of European football, and that a full pre-season will lead to a more consistent side next year.