In an incredibly disappointing night for Liverpool, the Reds crashed out of the Champions League as FC Basel held them to a 1-1 draw at Anfield. The Swiss side will now take their place in the knock-out rounds.
Understandably, there’s now going to be immense pressure on Brendan Rodgers and even more focus on how Liverpool perform against Manchester United in the Premier League this weekend.
Some will argue it’s unjustified, considering Rodgers masterminded the miracles of last season, when the Merseysiders claimed a runner-up finish in the English top flight. But he did make several crucial, basic mistakes against Basel and just to prove it, here’s three of them.
It was FC Basel who only needed a point at Anfield but you wouldn’t have guessed it from Brendan Rodgers’ starting line-up. Of course, keeping it solid at the back has been a real problems for the Reds this season, yet the Anfield gaffer selected four industrious, like-minded centre-mids in Liverpool’s Xi:
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) December 9, 2014
Resultantly, the Reds didn’t create nearly enough chances in the first half, as shown below:
Basel were always going to be on the defensive, but the lack of natural creativity, mobility and pace going forward allowed the Swiss side to take the initiative, with Fabian Frei netting the opener after just 21 minutes:
Liverpool needed to change things up at half-time and I suppose Brendan Rodgers gets credit for taking the initiative. But neither Alberto Moreno nor Lazar Markovic, who came on for Jose Enrique and Rickie Lambert respectively, had a particularly positive influence on the match.
Swapping a left-back for a left-back had virtually no effect. Moreno created one chance compared to his compatriot’s none, but apart from that both Spaniard’s were equally average. The elder defender actually put in a better defensive performance and made more passes, as shown below, leading Whoscored.com to give Moreno a worse rating from his 45 minutes:
Then, the curious case of Lazar Markovic – a winger swapped for the only striker in the entire Liverpool squad.
Admittedly, he looked lively for a short while and injected some pace going forward. Unfortunately however, the Serbian international lasted just fifteen minutes before seeing red under very controversial circumstances:
You can’t blame Brendan Rodgers for that, but bringing off Lambert only further reduced Liverpool’s goal threat.
This was a match Liverpool needed to win to progress to the next round of the Champions League, meaning at least one goal would be required, so why did Brendan Rodgers include just one striker in his entire matchday squad?
Of course, Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli are both out with injury problems, the former on a long-term basis and the latter expected to return at the weekend.
What about young Fabio Borini however? He put in a decent shift against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, and although the 23 year-old has only ever netted twice for the Reds, the quality of his finishing is undoubted – take this strike against Newcastle last season, for example:
He’s clearly out of favour at Anfield but at least the Italian would have offered something a little different and more direct in front of goal. One moment of magic from Borini could have secured Liverpool’s Champions League place this evening.
Instead, Liverpool somehow finished the match with no strikers on the pitch and Raheem Sterling playing as a centre-forward. It’s incredibly telling that their late equaliser came from a Steven Gerrard free kick: