A 1-1 draw at home to Basel has ended Liverpool’s Champions League campaign for this season putting them into the Europa League and deservedly so based on their performances in Europe including tonight’s draw.
Liverpool finished the group with a measly 5 points, 1 clear of Ludogorets in last and 2 behind Basel who progressed to the knock out stages in place of Liverpool, Real Madrid were a class above and finished the group with a 100% record after a 4-0 win over Ludogorets.
Upon the group stages being drawn Liverpool were seen as dead certs to qualify more than likely in 2nd behind Madrid, it was seen as the best possible draw with Ludogorets being new to the Champions League and Basel, who in fairness are no walkovers as Manchester United will know but, a team that Liverpool should be beating.
Regardless of the expected easiness of the group, Liverpool’s performances in every Champions League game this season were terrible, the only exception being their defeat in the Bernabeu where their second string side managed to compete with the Spanish giants but never really threatened and inevitably lost 1-0.
They began the group with a less than impressive 2-1 win at home to Bulgarian side Ludogorets with a last minute Gerrard penalty but that was to be their only win, a loss away to Basel and at home to Madrid had them in a precarious position at the half way stage, the aforementioned defeat in the Bernabeu and only managing a draw away in Bulgaria left them with a must win home game tonight with Basel.
Even after such a dreadful campaign, Liverpool were hot favourites to go through but another below par performance, that the Anfield faithful have become so used to seeing this season, gave them only a draw and the Europa League to look forward to for the new year.
After going a goal down inside the first half-hour Liverpool looked beaten, they were slow and lethargic and offered no threat in the final third, half-time substitute Lazar Markovic saw red midway through the second-half after a dreadful refereeing decision which may be used as an excuse for not winning but in over all play Liverpool did not deserve a win form the game.
A sublime Gerrard free-kick in the final ten minutes sparked hope but the game ended 1-1 and Liverpool deservedly missed out on the knockout stages for the second consecutive time after falling in the group stages last time they appeared in the Champions League in 2010 when Fiorentina and Lyon advanced at their expense.
Gerrard’s piece of magic could well be the last time we seen him in the Champions League, for Liverpool anyway, the now 34-year-old is unlikely to feature next season due to Liverpool’s poor league form and after that it is looking unlikely that he will be still a Liverpool player.
Brendan Rodgers will be under even more scrutiny following this Champions League exit but should he avoid the sack he will surely have realistic ambitions of winning the Europa League they will now find themselves in.