The scene was set for another memorable and magical Champions League night at Anfield, with Liverpool needing a win from their last group game to progress. The was apprehension, nerves and excitement circulating throughout the ground and much of Liverpool; the players knew what was required of them and knew just how important the game against Basel was. With just minutes before kick off, the Anfield faithful produced the loudest and most determined version of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in a while, reminiscent of those famous European nights against Chelsea, Olympiakos, AC Milan. The script was written. As the final whistle was blown, not one Liverpool fan would have expected to leave with such disappointment, having seen their team crash out of the Champions League after failing to find a winning goal. The story of Liverpool’s season so far.
Every single football fan had prepared themselves for another ‘Gerrard V Olympiakos’ moment, yet, given the way the season has unfolded so far, each one, in the back of their minds, knew Liverpool were in for a struggle. It was meant to be the night that kick started Liverpool’s season, making the lack of desire and passion from the men in red during the first half extremely hard to understand. For the first five minutes of the game, the fans were given hope by signs of energy and commitment, however the performance soon became very lackluster; Basel immediately settled down and looked dangerous every time they stepped into the opposition half. In the 25th minute, Fabian Frei put Basel one up with a well placed shot after the Liverpool defence persisted to offer little pressure on the ball, once again exposing their defensive frailty. From this moment, Brendan Rodgers and his side looked up against it, with Basel, unlike their opponents, looking composed and comfortable at the back.
The stadium was a complete contrast from the fortress it was last season, with the Anfield crowd being given little to cheer about. Groans of frustration became a common noise throughout the night. As a Liverpool fan, I couldn’t understand the lack of attacking intent and conviction given the circumstances. Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling were the only two to show any signs of promise, but even they failed to impose themselves in a manner that suggested they might be able to turn things around. The manager’s tactics must yet again come in question after Brendan Rodgers left Adam Lallana on the bench for the entire game, thereby leaving out a player that would have offered his team the best chance of finding a goal. Jose Enrique was also a surprise starter despite having played very few games this season. This meant Alberto Moreno started on the bench, before coming on at half time to put in a stronger display in his first five minutes than Enrique had in the entire first half. Despite these tactical mistakes, there is nothing Rodgers could do about the Lazar Markovic incident. Markovic looked promising when he came on a substitute, showing a hunger and attacking intent, only for his night to be cut short by a ridiculous decision by the referee to send him off, providing Liverpool with yet another stumbling block.
On 81 minutes, a sublime Steven Gerrard free kick brought Liverpool level, once again forcing Liverpool fans to believe they may be in for another famous Champions League night at Anfield. Following the goal, the team seemed to step it up a gear, making it even more disappointing given the fact that, had the played like they did in the last ten minutes, for the entire game, they may have got the win they needed. It was not to be, however. The signs at full time expressed how distraught the players and fans were, however Liverpool simply did not do enough to win and certainly did not deserve to win. It was a sad moment for the skipper; in the back of his mind, Steven Gerrard must have been threating over a missed opportunity, given the likelihood that this was his last Champions League campaign for Liverpool. The end of an era. The night well and truly marked this so called ‘transition period’, recognisng the need for fresh ideas, fresh talent and the reestablishment of Liverpool football club.