When the line-up with Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson and Rickie Lambert came through the writing on the wall was as bright as head-lights. A sluggish, lifeless and clueless Liverpool limped out of the Champions League after another bad performance. The sixth in a row in the group. The 1-1 result against Basel at Anfield was far from good enough.
Before the match I hoped that the Reds for once this season would show passion, energy and determination. Instead it was the same old story with nervousness, bad football and no real belief that a win could be achieved. Okay, in the last ten minutes some eager running and desperate and decent forward play was produced but too little too late. Why can´t we play well for 90 minutes?
For the umpteenth time this season we were ridiculously poor in the first half giving the ball away constantly and building up the opposition. And this time we also gave away an early goal, the most important thing to avoid. Six or seven red players acted statues when Basel calmly walked through and smashed home the decisive goal.
Yesterday I advocated a cautious approach at the beginning, but not in this manner. To pass the ball around in the back four and sideways in midfield is to invite danger. A little more drive and forward thinking would have been the recipe at the same time as we could have kept the opponents away from possession and dangerous zones. But Liverpool squandered possession time and again and Basel acted on it.
The Swiss side is quite good but didn´t had to do much to progress. Only some dogged defending in the final stages. For most of the match Liverpool was no threat whatsoever.
The blame lies both with the players and manager Brendan Rodgers. The players he picked pointed to a slow, uninventive attacking play. And so it was. Allen, Henderson and Lambert was wrong choices. Emre Can, Philippe Coutinho and Fabio Borini would have set another tone, a more positive and hungry one.
The players has this season been so lazy, never moving and giving the guy in possession someone to pass to. This was on display again yesterday, perhaps the most appalling example. No-one makes the effort to get a good passing game going. No unselfish runs, no smart moves, no efforts to stretch the opposing defence. Nothing happens, exept us losing the ball.
And when a good attack is on the verge the player with the ball dribbles and loses it or hits a lousy pass ending up in areas empty of red shirts.
It is obvious that last season´s title miss is a dark cloud over Anfield. Not even the crowd got going in well-known European manner yesterday. An extremely heavy hangover has afflicted the whole Liverpool family and it refuses to let go.
Here are my ratings for the Reds who participated in the sixth and final match in the Champions League this season (on a scale from 1 to 10):
GK Simon Mignolet 4.
Made some fine saves but was totally surprised by the shot that led to the goal and didn´t make a move.
RB Glen Johnson 1.
Made several different mistakes in the opening ten minutes and never recovered. Back to his bad, lazy self.
CB Dejan Lovren 1.
A lot of peculiar actions and passes. Completely passive when Basel scored.
CB Martin Skrtel 2.
Clumsy at times but never shirked responsibility.
LB José Enrique 1.
The errors kept coming and he was subsequently substituted after 45 minutes.
DM Lucas Leiva 2.
An ordinary display, some ball winning but dwelled on the ball too much.
DM Joe Allen 1.
Dismal effort. Lost possession and passed the ball backwards and sideways.
LM Raheem Sterling 4.
The only Red player to show attacking energy throughout. Used his pace but dribbled too much and his delivery was not up to par.
AM DM Steven Gerrard 2.
Lousy for long periods getting dispossessed and missing passes. A fantastic free kick goal fired him up for the final minutes.
LM Jordan Henderson 2.
Started promising but was soon back to his impact-free type of game. A little better than in recent times.
CF Rickie Lambert 1.
Was he in the game? Didn´t win aerial duels and couldn´t handle the ball on the ground.
LB Alberto Moreno 2. (Replaced José Enrique after 45 minutes).
Really tried to spark life into the attack but had no end product.
LB Lazar Markovic 2. (Replaced Rickie Lambert after 45 minutes).
His 15 minutes on the pitch was the best any Liverpool produced on the night. Then came his silly sending-off.
AM Philippe Coutinho 1. (Replaced Lucas Leiva after 74 minutes).
Didn´t do anything special during his 20 minutes.
That was that with that. After six poor showings in the Champions League Liverpool is deservedly out. Now awaits Europa League but don´t expect anything special. The way the Reds are playing and acting right now an early exit is more than probable. We are now in a deep hole without ladders and shovels. But we must somehow get out of it. So right now it´s more important than ever that:
We Go Again.