herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Liverpool not good enough but they had to play the ref as well

Sevilla after winning the Europa League
Sevilla after winning the Europa League

Not good enough but I have to say, Jurgen Klopp and his players had to beat 16 men in Basel last night - Seville and the match officials.

When Seville cut loose and showed what they could do, Liverpool had no answer but I have to cut the players and the manager some slack.

Inexperience showed very clearly in this game when Sevilla finally found a way to exert some pressure after half-time and when Liverpool needed cool heads they didn't have anything like enough.

They didn't have enough quality either and if you were cynical, you could say that this worked out very well for Klopp.

He can put his hand on his heart when he talks to John Henry and point at the evidence of this final when he looks for cash to buy players because he needs them.

You could say that the first 45 minutes was the best he could do with these players but the second showed the gaps.

That said, even the most battered veteran would have difficulty in accepting some of what we saw in the first-half from referee Jonas Eriksson and his team.

Mistakes

Some of the most glaring mistakes by a referee and his officials that I have ever seen changed the course of this game and that's not sour grapes. It's a fact.

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino was sitting in the best seat in the house and once again, he saw a big, big game changed to the point of farce by woeful referring.

In my day, headline writers would have covered the tabloids in banners about dodgy officials and Swiss bank accounts.

Now, we talk about technology and if ever there was a clear example of how a TMO could rectify a clear wrong without any delay, controversy or argument, this game was it.

Two of the first-half handball incidents were so clear that it was impossible to miss them. There were five officials all looking at the play How could they miss them?

The less obvious penalty claim made me think about Thierry Henry and a very similar touch he took on the ball in a very important game in Paris.

No doubt, we'll have incidents like this to talk about in the Champions League final and then next month at the Euro 2016 finals. It's long beyond the time when this matter should have been adressed and resolved.

All that aside, Liverpool were the architects of their own downfall and Alberto Moreno has more reason than most to hang his head.

He went missing for two goals after Daniel Sturridge illustrated very well why Klopp has been so willing to put up with his long and tedious return to full fitness with the opening goal.

His strike with the outside of his left boot was pure class and gave Liverpool reward for a period of good pressure.

Apart from the penalty claims, Nathaniel Clyne sent a series of pacey crosses into the box which on another day might have found a leg but the momentum was all running in Liverpool's favour.,

But I did worry that if Sevilla got any control, they would find the space they needed to make their class tell and they did that very well straight away after the break.

Moreno dropped his first clanger when he let Mariano get away from him and cross for Gameiro to score.

From a position of strength, Liverpool panicked and Sevilla ripped them open with Moreno helping them along.

Coke finished off a fine sweeping move to put Sevilla in front and at that point Klopp's plans were in disarray.

He got another to put the game away and Klopp had no response.

He needs more players, maybe a half dozen and Liverpool did no more than reach their level in Basel last night.

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