Every Liverpool fan remembers Istanbul. Everyone remembers the hopelessness that was felt at half time when AC Milan ran roughshod over the Liverpool defence in the first period. Everyone remembers the utter joy when Xabi Alonso scored that penalty to make it 3-3. There was one thing that we, as Liverpool fans, did not stop to think about that night – how the opposition fans must have felt. Milan had come so close to victory. Losing that game in the manner they did must have been soul destroying. Last night against Sevilla though, we finally got a taste of how those Milan fans must have felt on 25th May 2005.
Jurgen Klopp made the usual changes to his side for this Champions League encounter. Loris Karius came in to replace Simon Mignolet in goal. Joe Gomez also replace Trent Alexander-Arnold at right back. Apart from those two changes Liverpool remained largely unchanged from the side that defeated Southampton 3-0 at the weekend. Sevilla made two noticeable changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Liverpool at the beginning of September. Firstly, Joaquin Correa dropped to the bench to be replaced by Pablo Sarabia on the left hand side of their attack. Also coming in was German Johannes Geis, replacing the injured Simon Kjaer at centre half.
Many didn’t fancy Liverpool coming into this game. Sevilla were unbeaten at home going into this one and had only lost one of their last five games. That all looked likely to change when Liverpool went ahead after just eighty seconds. Philippe Coutinho took a corner from the left which was flicked on in the middle of the area by Dejan Lovren. Roberto Firmino had managed to ghost in at the back post behind Gabriel Mercado to fire The Reds into the lead from two yards out. It was the perfect start to the game for Jurgen Klopp’s men and exactly what was needed to settle any early nerves in what was sure to be a hostile atmosphere.
Sevilla responded well by slowly coming into the game. They began to see more of the ball and were constantly looking to dissect the Liverpool centre halve with balls in between them. Banega and Pizarro in particular were keen to thread balls through to Nolito and Ben Yedder in the home sides attack. It nearly paid off twice in quick succession. First Nolito got on the end of a through ball by Pizarro. He sold Gomez a dummy to cut back inside onto his right foot, before shooting towards Karius’ bottom corner. The German stopper managed to dive and get a hand onto the shot to help it onto the post. He was lucky enough to see the ball rebound off the woodwork and back into his grateful arms. Moments later Banega played in Ben Yedder in the channel between Lovren and Moreno. Ben Yedder seemed certain to score and shot powerfully across Karius, but his shot flashed just wide of the goal. Those misses proved to be costly as Liverpool doubled their lead within a minute.
Roberto Firmino was played in through the middle by Coutinho. As he closed in on goal he looked more and more likely to score. He fired low but Sergio Rico got down well to parry the ball away for a corner. From the set piece, Coutinho again aimed for the middle of the area. This time it was Firmino with the flick on and Sadio Mane who managed to take advantage of Mercado’s lack of concentration, diving low to head the ball past Rico to make it 2-0. Just when Sevilla seemed to be gaining a foothold in the game they had been knocked back once again. Liverpool had a clear gameplan on set pieces and it was paying dividends in astounding fashion.
From there the game became tight again – that was until Liverpool got a third on the half hour mark. Jordan Henderson played a lovely ball over the top for Mane, who raced away from Mercado. He sprinted into the area and unleashed a shot towards Rico’s goal, which the Spanish ‘keeper saved. However Firmino was running into the box looking for the square ball and found himself with the rebound at his feet. He took one touch and smashed the ball into the empty net from three yards before Johannes Geis could close him down. Liverpool now seemed home and dry, and qualification for the next round of the Champions League looked to have been achieved.
Liverpool saw the half out comfortably and it looked as if it was job done for Jurgen Klopp’s men. Not only had they ended Sevilla’s unbeaten home run and overcome a very tricky opponent, they had managed to seal qualification. It looked like Liverpool would be able to sit back and rest in the second half, ready for the weekend’s game with Chelsea at Anfield. That wouldn’t quite be the story though.
Eduardo Berrizo responded to his sides first half display by making a change. Attacking midfielder Franco Vazquez was brought on to replace Steven N’Zonzi, a holding midfielder. It immediately paid off for the Spaniards as they seemed to have more control in the middle of the park. Liverpool couldn’t get near their counterparts and the white wall washed over the Liverpool half without mercy. They were rewarded after just six minutes of play in the second half.
Alberto Moreno was now Sevilla’s target of exploitation and he gave away a free kick in the left back position. Banega lifted the ball towards the near post, where Wissam Ben Yedder snuck in front of Moreno to flick the ball beyond Karius and into the net. The home side now had renewed hope and began to launch attack after attack at Liverpool. The ball would be cleared away from goal and instantly come back through the middle of the park. Liverpool’s midfield simply could not get hold of it. Things went from bad to worse for The Reds on the hour mark.
Lovren had the ball under pressure on the edge of the Liverpool box and fired it at Moreno from close range. Moreno failed to control it and the ball hit the inside of his foot before rolling behind him. Ben Yedder nipped in front of Moreno before he could recover from his mistake and took the ball off his toe. In doing so, he was brought down and referee belatedly gave a penalty. It looked soft at first and Ben Yedder was going away from goal, but there was contact and it was the correct decision. Ben Yedder stepped up and sent Karius the wrong way but the referee asked for the spot kick to be retaken as a Sevilla player was encroaching. When he did retake it, Ben Yedder made no error and sent Karius the wrong way again to pull the score back to 3-2. It compounded a horrible fifteen minutes of play for Liverpool and Moreno, who was brought off for James Milner almost instantly. Emre Can was also brought on in an effort to regain some control in the midfield through strength and aggression.
It did the trick, if only temporarily. Can was winning the ball and playing in Salah, who was looking to get the better of the Sevilla captain, Sergio Escudero. We started to create chances too. First, Can was put clean through and tried to cut it back to Mane but the ball was intercepted by the toe of Banega. Then Can lifted a ball towards Mane in the right channel. Mane spun and volleyed it towards goal from eighteen yards out but could only find the stand behind the goal. They were misses that would prove costly. With time ticking away, it looked as if Liverpool would hang on – that was until the third minute of stoppage time.
Johannes Geis had a shot in the area deflected wide off Ragnar Klavan. Joaquin Correa, on as a substitute, swung the ball into the middle of the area. No one in white or red managed to make any meaningful contact with it and the ball ran loose. Guido Pizarro was first to react and slid to poke it through the crowd of bodies and past Loris Karius. 3-3. It was no more than the home side deserved for their efforts in the second half. Minutes after the restart, the referee blew the final whistle.
Lose a lead of this magnitude is absolutely unacceptable. Sevilla had been practically put to bed and the game should have been managed better. Liverpool have done better at managing games this season, so this result and second half performance are very surprising. There are many people you could point the finger of blame at. However it must fall with the eleven players on the pitch. Jurgen Klopp did all he could do from the dugout and the only criticism you could make of the manager was that he didn’t take Alberto Moreno off sooner. The team had given themselves enough of a lead to comfortably hold onto and were unable to do so. Qualification is still likely, with Liverpool holding a +10 goal difference and Spartak Moscow sitting three points behind us with a +3 goal difference. It will take a miracle for the Russians to get through this group now. The manner of the performance in this game will not be forgotten quickly, even though it has to be – Chelsea are the next visitors to Anfield.