Sevilla retained their Europa League crown for a third year in a row last night as they beat a lackluster Liverpool 3-1 in Basel.
A Kevin Gameiro strike and Coke brace sealed a blistering second half revival by Sevilla, who had gone in a goal behind at the break after Daniel Sturridge gave Liverpool the lead with a superb opener.
The Andalusians capitalised on a mundane second half display by Liverpool who failed to reach the same intensity and energy levels that had got them through previous rounds against the likes of Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal.
Unai Emery’s side started the game brightly and had the better of the opening quarter of an hour. However, as the half progressed Liverpool settled and began to find their feet, creating opportunities and finding openings down the flanks.
Liverpool looked on course to win their first european trophy in eleven years when a sublime Daniel Sturridge goal gave Liverpool the lead after 35 minutes.
The England frontman reminded both Liverpool and England fans what he is capable of when his moment of brilliance saw him guide the ball with the outside of his left foot beyond the outstretched reach of Soria Solis in the Sevilla goal.
Liverpool had Sevilla in their grasp and were unlucky not to be two goals ahead as their opponents looked rattled.
Dejan Lovren had his header rightly ruled out for offside, but one of the main turning points was a clear Daniel Carrico handball which was turned down as Roberto Firmino jinked past the defender. Liverpool had two more penalty appeals turned down for handball which on another day could easily have been given.
At the interval, Liverpool led 1-0 and looked good value for their lead after a nervous opening to the game. However, what was to come in the second half caught Liverpool off-guard and a rampant Sevilla dominated proceedings as Liverpool collapsed to concede three goals in twenty five minutes.
Slack defending at the start of the second period cost Liverpool dear and gave Sevilla momentum. Kevin Gameiro’s goal 17 seconds after the restart cancelled out Daniel Sturridge’s opener, as he tapped home from close range to capitalise on sloppy Liverpool defending.
Once Sevilla had levelled the tie, Liverpool never recovered and failed to threaten the Sevilla defence. Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge began to cut isolated figures in attack.
Coke then scored his first goal of the game to cap off a flowing Sevilla move, sweeping the ball past Simon Mignolet to give the Spaniards the lead.
Six minutes later, Coke scored his second and Sevilla’s third as Unai Emrey’s men asserted their dominance. A couple of ricochets in the Liverpool penalty area made the ball fall kindly to Coke who was unmarked at the back post to fire past Mignolet.
The goal appeared to have been ruled out for offside, but the referee correctly overturned the decision and Liverpool suddenly had a mountain to climb.
Liverpool introduced Divock Origi and Christian Benteke as they tried to find a way back into the game, however there was to be no repeat of their Borussia Dortmund heroics as Liverpool prepare for a season without european football at Anfield next season.
The defeat is a crushing blow for Liverpool knowing that victory would have seen them return to the Champions League despite finishing eighth in the Premier league this season. There are positives to take from reaching two finals this season for Liverpool, however, no european football or silverware will undoubtedly affect any plans Liverpool have this summer to attract the biggest stars to the club.
Jurgen Klopp’s first campaign in English football reached a nightmare conclusion in Switzerland as Liverpool came up against a clinical Sevilla side who were deserved winners. Liverpool were left to rue a disappointing second half and were left well beaten at the St Jakob Park Stadium.
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