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Liverpool’s decision to hand Brendan Rodgers his p45 early on in the season was justified when Jurgen Klopp was announced as his long term replacement. The German maestro inherited a fragile squad but even without a proper defensive midfielder and a leaky backline (not to mention Mignolet), the Reds still managed to grind out results all the way to the final in Basel.
But what was perhaps their most fulfilling moment of the competition was their 3-1 dissemination of arch-rivals Manchester United in the round of 16.
Liverpool registered the perfect start against Sevilla with a Daniel Sturridge opener in the 35th minute. As the England international whipped it in with a sensational strike from the outside of his stronger left foot, only one thought was lingering…Champions League football. However, what ensued over the next 20 minutes changed the course of the game entirely.
Sevilla not only found the equalizer within the first few exchanges of the second half, but the Spaniards also had their noses in front in the 64th minute through Jorge Moreno otherwise known as Coke. The proverbial final nail on Liverpool’s coffin was driven by Coke six minutes later with his second of the night, albeit under debatable circumstances.
Here are three conclusions from the match:
Liverpool missed Champions League by a whisker
The winner of the Europa League ordinarily receives automatic Champions League qualification, and Klopp’s charges seemed on course to achieve just that for the better half of the game.
Under Rafa Benitez, the Reds made a historic comeback from three goals down against AC Milan to clinch the 2005 Champions League title, and having already made a comeback against Borussia Dortmund this season, the Anfield faithful were always going to hold steadfast in that belief.
Having finished 8th in the Premier League standings with 60 points, the Europa League was the only thing standing between them and European glory. The Reds were however to be denied as Sevilla proved too strong.
New summer signings needed
For a man on his maiden season at the club, Jurgen Klopp has done a magnificent job at Anfield; but as much as Sevilla were technically brilliant, Liverpool have only themselves to blame for giving away the lead, and none more culpable than Alberto Moreno.
The left-back was dexterously pried open for the equalizer, to the dejection and frustration of his team mates.
After the Spaniards drew level, Liverpool looked second best in all quarters and never really looked like getting back into it. With the season over now, the gaffer is probably prodding over how he can strengthen his side in the summer.
Sturridge will deliver when fit
There are three things certain in life: Death, taxes and Sturridge scoring when fully fit. It’s one thing having him in your team, and another ensuring he’s fully fit.
It’s that belief that has earned the 26-year old a call up in the 26-man provisional England squad for the Euros, despite just managing only 14 Premier League appearances under his belt this season.
Whether Klopp will keep Sturridge or opt for a fitter striker next season however remains to be seen.
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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