Red faces have some way to go

It's simply the pits for Brazilian forward Philippe Coutinho and his Liverpool team-mates after losing the Europa League final 1-3 to Sevilla at St Jakob-Park in Basel.
It's simply the pits for Brazilian forward Philippe Coutinho and his Liverpool team-mates after losing the Europa League final 1-3 to Sevilla at St Jakob-Park in Basel. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Klopp the right man but collapse in 2nd half to Sevilla shows it's a long journey back to top

BASEL • Juergen Klopp had talked of the Europa League final being the start of something at Liverpool and, amid a chastening 3-1 defeat, he learnt how true that was.

In his mission to restore the Merseyside club among the Champions League elite, there will be no short cuts but, as Sevilla exposed, rather a long road back.

At least Liverpool could console themselves that they have the German to guide them on that journey. At the end of a campaign which will show no trophies and eighth place - 21 points behind champions Leicester City - in the Premier League, getting Klopp looks by far the best thing that happened this season.

Even as he reflects on his own errors on Wednesday and the second-half defensive chaos at St Jakob Park, he can believe that he has stirred fresh belief on Merseyside.

A collapse meant he did not become the sixth Liverpool manager to claim European silverware after Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez.

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  • Sevilla are the first team to win three straight European titles since Bayern Munich won the European Cup from 1974 to 1976.

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  • Juergen Klopp has now lost his last five major finals as a manager.

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  • Seconds it took after the start of the second half for Sevilla to equalise.

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  • Sevilla captain Coke netted a brace in six minutes. The midfielder had not scored in his previous 24 Europa League appearances.

  • Four talking points

  • REDS NEED LEADERS AND TO BE STRONGER MENTALLY

    So now Liverpool know what it feels like to concede three times in the second half of a European cup final. Some of the officiating did not help but the Reds did not help themselves either.

    Yet another lead was thrown away by them this season - further proof that Juergen Klopp not only needs to bring in technically better players in the summer, but also mentally stronger ones. Leaders are needed if the progress the German has made is going to lead to tangible rewards.

    TOURE SHOWS HIS QUALITY, MAY BE KEPT BY KLOPP

    One Liverpool player who does have leadership qualities is Kolo Toure, who was probably the Reds' best player in Basel, covering ground, blocking shots and constantly communicating with his team-mates.

    The 35-year-old defender's contract expires next month but, on the back of this display, Klopp may decide that he should be kept on for another season at least.

    SEVILLA CAN MIX IT

    Sevilla are remarkable in that they can play with two distinct styles - direct and intricate. In the opening 15 minutes they were repeatedly knocking long balls up to the head of Steven N'Zonzi, and they also took some long throw-ins, one of which almost led to a goal for Kevin Gameiro.

    Liverpool were struggling to deal with that direct approach, but all of a sudden Sevilla produced a brilliant move for the second goal, passing along the floor with one-touch football.

    STURRIDGE IS BACK

    Daniel Sturridge is giving Roy Hodgson a real problem with his England selection for Euro 2016. The Liverpool forward's wonderful first-half goal is a reminder of the sensational form he has been in over the past few weeks.

    Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney are probably ahead of him in Hodgson's pecking order, but Sturridge was England's best forward in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup and since then he has been left out by England because of injury, not a lack of form.

    THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

Yet, having also reached the League Cup final with an inherited squad and no pre-season, the German will believe that his serious work starts now.

The remit for Klopp and Liverpool's much-maligned transfer committee is to improve the squad in the summer.

Given the resources available to some of their rivals, and their absence from European competition next season, that is a tall order.

Mario Goetze, Liverpool's priority attacking target, now knows that he must return to Borussia Dortmund, where he remains unpopular having left to join Bayern Munich, if he wants to play Champions League football.

Mainz goalkeeper Loris Karius is also aware that his prospects of overhauling Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Germany team could be damaged if he joins Liverpool as they will be unable to offer him the platform of European football upon which to prove himself.

Liverpool great and pundit Jamie Carragher, meanwhile, has made it clear which area the club need to strengthen.

"Jurgen, transfer committee, anyone, sign a f*****g left-back," the former defender tweeted after a night to forget for Alberto Moreno.

The Spaniard, whose mistakes have cost his side on a number of occasions this season, darted hopelessly into a tackle on Mariano Ferreira, who skipped past him and crossed for Kevin Gameiro to side-foot into an empty net just 17 seconds after the restart.

That cancelled out Liverpool's opener after 35 minutes following a moment of class from Daniel Sturridge, who received the ball on the left edge of the area before expertly picking his spot with a pin-point curling finish off the outside of his left boot.

Coke then fired Sevilla ahead and added a third after the assistant referee initially raised his flag for offside, only for referee Jonas Eriksson to correctly award the goal following a lengthy consultation.

"It was obviously the first (Sevilla) goal (that changed the game). In this moment we lost faith in our style of play," Klopp said. "We changed from passing simply and quick, to slow and complicated."

That, coupled with the fact that Liverpool conceded 19 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season, suggested a fragility in the side.

As such, his transfer wish list this summer is likely to feature strong characters. Klopp can at least convince them that his side could have an edge on the domestic front.

"Now it's clear, we're not in an international tournament next year," he said. "It means we have time to train, to work harder. The boys showed what they are capable of, many of them are still young and this was the first big final, and we will use this experience together.

"Some day everybody will say defeat by Sevilla was the turning point in the success of Liverpool FC."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2016, with the headline 'Red faces have some way to go'. Print Edition | Subscribe