Liverpool shortcomings laid bare by Champions League exit
10 December 2014, 15:13
London - Liverpool's Champions League exit was not down to a lack of heart, but manager Brendan Rodgers' claim that his side were not technically good enough to beat Swiss side FC Basel on Tuesday was a stark admission.
The scene was set for a memorable Anfield night with a win needed in their final Group B match to clamber into the last 16.
They could only manage a 1-1 draw though -- a scoreline that flattered a side who managed five points from six matches on their return to the Champions League after a five-year absence.
A well-drilled Basel were more savvy, more incisive and better organised than Liverpool, for whom only 34-year-old Steven Gerrard stepped up to the plate.
"In the first half we weren't good enough -- it's as simple as that," Rodgers said. "Technically, we were way short. This is a competition, in particular, where technically you've got to be much better than what we were in the first half.
"Our positioning wasn't good, the options for the guy on the ball weren't anywhere near what we would want and expect from a team that is based on a technical game."
At present, Liverpool are unrecognisable to the side that should have won last season's Premier League, and that is not just because Luis Suarez is now playing for Barcelona.
While the loss of Suarez's strike partner Daniel Sturridge to injury has been a blow, Liverpool have regressed in alarming fashion in a matter of months.
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Worryingly, the reported 80 million euros Liverpool received for Suarez appears to have been frittered away on a collection of squad fillers -- a similar mistake to that made by Tottenham Hotspur when they sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.
Tellingly, some of Rodgers' summer signings were left on the bench for arguably the biggest game of the season on Tuesday.
Winger Lazar Markovic, signed from Benfica for around 20 million pounds ($31.36 million) in July did get on at halftime in place of fellow summer signing Rickie Lambert who looked woefully off the pace.
Markovic's main contribution was getting sent off.
Spain left back Alberto Moreno was also omitted from the starting line-up, eventually replacing Jose Enrique for the second half after his compatriot endured a miserable evening.
England midfielder Adam Lallana, signed for 25 million pounds from Southampton, did not even get on.
Liverpool, ninth in the Premier League, must now regroup and aim for a top-four place in the Premier League that, on current form, looks a long-shot.
With a Champions League place available for the winners of the Europa League, which Liverpool are now in, that could be their best hope of playing with the elite next season.