Whatever happened, the Liverpool team that played the first half in last night’s Europa League final against Sevilla, went MIA and did not turn up for the second. What then took the field was a doddery eleven, more like the remnants from the 1977 European Cup victory over Borussia Monchengladbach, playing in an over 60s charity exhibition match. Sluggish, disorganised, leaderless, pointless really.
Barely eighteen seconds into the half and the precious lead Liverpool had gained was squandered in a moment of defensiveness drunkenness. Perhaps, on the strength of the first 45, they presumed victory and drank the bubbly too early. Klopp might consider breathalysing his players in future. As always, defensive frailty was at the core of the rot, prompting erstwhile club stalwart Jamie Carragher to tweet, "Jurgen, transfer committee, anyone sign a f****** left back."
While Moreno was clearly at fault a left back alone will not solve the deficiency. It is a team integration problem. Defensive strategy is awry and that is a managerial responsibility which no one has shown the slightest inclination to take on.
In this area Klopp as a replacement for Rodgers has been no improvement. His defensive inadequacies seem to have accompanied him from Dortmund, where his “final season in charge was characterised by shocking defending ...”
Klopp has brought a feel good factor to the club rather than a play good one. Personal charisma has become the methadone in lieu of team class. Eighth in the Premiership, no trophies, no European football on Merseyside next year. In spite of his many shortcomings the record of Brendan Rodgers was not really that poor. His lowest Premiership place was seventh.
The evening had got off to a good start for the Scousers. After the first ten minutes the men in red settled down and went about their task briskly and efficiently and were one up at half time due to a brilliant strike from Sturridge. Denied two certain penalties, they were unfortunate not to go in at the break three up. An hour later when they left the pitch, they were lucky not to depart six down.
I watched the game more for the sake of sharing the experience with my son, rather than out of any passion for Liverpool FC. I switched a planned trip to Dublin from evening to morning so that he and I could, for the optics, don the Liverpool tops, making him feel guilty in the process due to his affinity with and affection for Manchester United. His plate of treats proved a sufficient recompense. The tightness of the shirt made me look much like the team in front of me, flabby. Others might think I had been eating the treats.
Having to do nothing other than merely sit at home sprawled on the settee in front of the television, the loss was little more than an irritant. I felt absolutely nothing for the players who left with their loser medals rather than the cup. They got no less than they deserved. I felt it for the fans who had made the journey only to be rewarded with a performance that underscores the contention that behind each millionaire lies financial fraud.
Earlier this year I watched working class people from the city of Liverpool, their faces strained by years of battling class prejudice, institutional cover up and injustice. They were the families of the 96 men women and children unlawfully killed at Hillsborough stadium in 1989. They had just secured a crucial victory at the inquest into the deaths of their loved ones. Had they have fuelled their justice campaign with the commitment and determination of last night’s millionaire squad, their loved ones would still carry the official and ideological imprimatur of low life drunks who pissed in gardens and forced their way into the ground causing mayhem and loss of life on a huge scale.
What happened to those Liverpool fans at the combined hands of the British police, officialdom and The Sun, affords the team’s supporters an elevated vault in the emotive hierarchy of the mind of those who were fans at the time of the mass unlawful killing. Yet it is not enough for other fans to hold them in particular esteem while the players behave as if they are just a guaranteed source of income. Those who benefit most from the deep trawl of the fans’ pockets are obligated to reciprocate. Liverpool fans are from a wider family whose siblings died in anticipation of performances so unlike that on offer in Basle. When those who step into the Liverpool shirt make little or no effort, it exudes the arrogance of entitlement. just rake in the money and give little or nothing back in return.
All sides lose. That’s sport. Liverpool have lost before and will again. It is when a side plays so unconvincingly, when its desire to win is considerably less than that of the spectators, that there is an ersatz look and feel to it all. It assumes the appearance of non-alcoholic beer. Looks and tastes the same but there is something just not right about it.
What Basel 2016 will be remembered for was a team so determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, it succeeded.