Rapid Reaction: Liverpool-Sevilla Europa League Final

With a spot in next year’s Champions League group stage on the line, Liverpool just fell to Sevilla in the Europa League Final 3-1. This one hurt. If you’re reading some random blog about Liverpool, I imagine this isn’t your first rodeo. I don’t have to recap the quarterfinal against Dortmund or the semis against Villareal. Coming into this one, it felt like destiny, it felt like this was going to be Klopp’s official announcement to Europe that in less than a season at the helm he was on his way to building a dynasty. It ended leaving more questions than answers.

First, credit where credit’s due, Sevilla played exquisite football in the 2nd half. They’ve played exquisite football in the Europa League for 3 consecutive years now—each time hoisting the title at the end. I feel badly that I haven’t watched them more. They probably knew that there were a lot of people tuning in that hadn’t watched them all that much before. They probably felt disrespected that after winning this thing 2 years in a row all anyone could talk about in the lead up was Liverpool. How people were making the case that Sevilla were underdogs in this championship. They had every reason to play with a chip on their shoulder.

By the way, they’re playing in a Copa del Rey Final against Barcelona at the weekend. You don’t get there by accident.

I’ve already lost some steam writing this, I was going to recap it but really what’s the point in anything anymore. This game could’ve kept my ennui at bay for a little while. Could’ve been the perfect way to end the school year since I doubt the grades I get on my finals will provide any satisfaction. LOL, he made a self-deprecating joke about how he didn’t do well on his exams. Bet no one does that!

This is spiraling out of control a little bit actually—the emotions and the coffee are pulsating in my brain. Basically the teams felt each other out for the first half hour or so, penalty claim for Liverpool through Firmino in that time span that with my Liverpool glasses on is a pen, if I were a Sevilla fan it isn’t, and as a neutral I really don’t know. Defender makes himself a bit bigger and clearly gets the ball with his arm—I just don’t know where else he’s supposed to put his arm. For me it’s a natural position if you’re defending the attacker outside the box, but you can make the case he should know in the box to have it behind him. Either decision was bearable for me. The ref didn’t give it.

Sublime strike from Sturridge with the outside of the boot on 35 or so gave Liverpool the 1-0 advantage, like a really fucking classy finish, and it looked like we were well on our way. Controlling the run of play, Klopp’s press was forcing Sevilla into uncharacteristic loose play at the back, and Liverpool had another penalty shout on a through ball from Sturridge that for me is certainly a penalty. Again, might be natural for the crouched defender to have arms by the side but not low enough to the ground to stop the ball, but that’s intent, point to the spot. The ref didn’t.

For me, should’ve been 2 to Liverpool at the half. Can make the case it should’ve been 3. But for me, 2-0 Liverpool. Instead, it was just 1-0. Halftime couldn’t have come at a worse time for Klopp’s men as they were dominating.

Rest is history. Sevilla score in the first 18 seconds of the second half before Liverpool can even get a touch of the ball. Usual shitty defending from the former Sevilla man Moreno as he gets nutmegged by Mariano and then just brilliant movement on the part of the striker Gameiro to get free of Toure (MOTM for me, no problem with his play on the night) and have a tap in. Safe to say the Liverpool players and crowd were stunned. From there, Sevilla was transformed and Liverpool seemed to lose faith in its tactics. Sometimes one can only speculate when the turning point of a match occurred. Not tonight. At 45:18 on the clock.

Their 2nd goal on 65 consisted of 12 straight passes by my count from the back for as pretty a team goal as you’ll ever see. If it was Barca or Real it’d be all over Sportscenter. Since it’s Sevilla, we’ll see. But it was magisterial. What Sevilla’s all about. Spanish football at its finest. Why they call it the beautiful game.

They added a third, completing Coke’s double, on what initially looked to be offsides but the ball took a touch off a Liverpool defender so it was the right call. From there, Liverpool succumbed to their fate for the final 20 or so. The officiating will be at the center of the post-match discussion, and deservedly so, but equally so Sevilla are deserved champions. They made adjustments and made the game theirs after a lackluster first 45. Liverpool just watched them play football from that point on.

Coming this close to ensuring Champions League ball, after all the comebacks, it really, really sucks. But in the grand scheme of things, it should be a fine learning experience for this Liverpool squad. Klopp and this bunch overachieved to get here. This summer will be his first to actually bring in players that can play his brand of football. Next season looks very bright and should indeed be the Klopp’s Liverpool we’ve been awaiting.

Today still stings though, no doubt about it. Still kind of in shock and this writing is terrible. They really had me with that first half performance. Just chilling on the couch with Baxter anticipating a comfortable 2-0 or 3-1 finish in their favor. Even after Sevilla’s shocker goal I thought we’d have the poise to calm ourselves down and get right back in the flow of it. Didn’t happen. Moreno remained dismal. Coutinho invisible throughout as is becoming a disconcerting trend in big games. Can, Firmino, Lallana all weltered after decent first half displays.

That may be the most troubling aspect of this loss. Everyone will say that once Klopp’s reinforcements come in we will be better, and this is true, but guys like Can, Coutinho, and Firmino aren’t going anywhere. Kolo was the best guy on the pitch for Liverpool by far but at 35 that’s likely it for him in a Reds shirt. So the guys that this team is probably going to be built around didn’t step up while the geezer on his way out did. If they were gonna lose tonight, you’d hope it’d be the other way around.

Good 1st half, not so much in the 2nd. Need more out of the young guns with the pressure on, and let’s hope everyone learns from this experience. Respect to Sevilla and their manager Unai Emery. He’s built something special there, with a totally different squad than last year’s actually, and I’m sure he’ll be on the short list of a number of top European clubs if he does choose to make that jump.

This is the tough part of sports. Sometimes you just get too invested. But we’ll be back fully focused on the league next year. Better Days, as The Goo Goo Dolls would say. My blog about them will be far better than this diatribe. Just exhausted.

We march on. I march to the liquor cabinet. YNWA

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