Reds crash out of Champions League

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Steven Gerrard scored but could not prevent Liverpool going out of the Champions League against Basel. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Steven Gerrard scored but could not prevent Liverpool going out of the Champions League against Basel. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Liverpool’s return to the Champions League has been cut short as they failed to beat FC Basel at Anfield to progress into the knockout phase of Europe’s elite competition.

Lazar Markovic was also sent off in a 1-1 draw that proved to be a disappointing conclusion to a campaign in which the Reds only managed one win in six games. They now join rivals Everton as they drop into the Europa League.

Liverpool supporters have suffered somewhat in what has been a turbulent season so far, but were behind their team from the first whistle and a rousing rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ before kick-off was only to be expected on one of their most important European nights of recent times.

However, most of the early optimism was broken as Fabian Frei put the visitors ahead as his low drive nestled in the corner after some tidy build up play from the Swiss champions who deservedly took the advantage, perhaps carrying a psychological edge over their opponents after winning the reverse fixture in Switzerland.

Liverpool struggled to get a foothold in the game for long periods and as the heavens opened above Anfield, Brendan Rodgers’ side breathed a sigh of relief as Shkelzen Gashi’s finish was ruled out by the Dutch referee, who deemed that he had strayed offside before poking past Simon Mignolet.

The home side shuffled the pack as play resumed for the second half, with summer recruits Alberto Moreno and Markovic replacing Jose Enrique and Rickie Lambert respectively, as Rodgers looked to alter his team’s fortunes against Paolo Sousa’s side who were untroubled in the first 45 minutes.

FC Basel's Fabian Frei scores the opener against Liverpool in the Champions League at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

FC Basel’s Fabian Frei scores the opener against Liverpool in the Champions League at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Markovic looked lively from the off as the Reds began to dominate the ball, looking to carve out their first real clear cut opportunity against their resilient opponents, however it was all too short lived for the Serb who found himself perhaps unfortunate to be sent off for what appeared to be a hand-off in the face of Behrang Safari, as replays appeared to show there was minimal – if any – contact at all.

The Anfield crowd were yet again incensed moments later as the referee waved off Steven Gerrard’s appeal for a penalty after going down under the challenge of Basel keeper Tomas Vaclik.

But it was the skipper who stepped up to the plate once again to breathe life into his team, curling a magnificent free kick into the top corner after Raheem Sterling was brought down on the edge of the box.

But it all proved to be too little too late despite a frenzied finale, and now Rodgers will have to lift his men for Sunday’s visit to Old Trafford against Manchester United in what could be a defining game in Liverpool’s season, given that they already now have their work cut out to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

 

About Daniel Wright, JMU Journalism