OK, 'Pool Fans, Maybe You Will Walk Alone
When Liverpool hosted Basel in final match of Group B at Anfield last night, it was their last chance to qualify for the Champions League bracket play.
All Basel needed was to stay undefeated in order to secure second place behind Real Madrid.
It started in nightmarish fashion for Reds. The Swiss team showed no signs of pressure handling the ball, making it clear that Coach Paolo Sousa prepared his team magnificently -- both tactically and physically -- for this decider. He stationed an extra man in midfield, thanks to their balanced shape with three central backs and extra wingers on both sides. The Swiss discipline made it clear that this formation was going to make it a tough match up for home team to crack the Bebbis' defensive line.
Organized play and great attitude were evident in that 25th-minute marker by Fabian Frei from the edge of the box, taking advantage of not only effective service but a sufficient screen by his target man with an outstanding finish.
Brendan Rogers was trying to change momentum with subs Alberto Moreno and Lazar Marković, but things only got worse for his team. That slight collision in the 61st minute between Marković and Safari was daggers for the Reds, as referee Kuipers though it was enough to show a direct red card for the Serbian youngster.
With man down and goal behind, they needed a miracle.
It was 81st minute. Sterling was brought down by Schär at the edge of the box. A free kick was awarded to the Reds. They needed a goal to keep their dreams alive, and their captain did his part.
Miracles do happen. But on this night, that term was spelled Wunder. Basel had gone through by holding one of the game's most famous clubs to a 1-1 draw.
Last night we had teams with different personalities playing against each other. It was about visitors having the guts to play and defend when the result demanded it. On other side, there was a talented home team playing on Europes biggest club stage, where its youngsters had to learn the hard way how to become true contenders on the football field.
And one lesson was to not sell the side's best player. All the dosh they got from selling Luis Suàrez has only bought them a backhanded invitation to the Europa League. Good luck with that. Incidentally, John Henry's sense of timing saw the Boston Red Sox fall from World Series titlists to the AL East basement, too.
Great stewardship, dude.