Jurgen Klopp: Europa League final second half meltdown still hurts
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted that he is yet to shelve the pain of watching Seville’s second half demolition of his side en route to winning their third Europa League title in as many years.
Few games in recent memory have epitomised the old adage of football being a game of two halves quite as much as this year’s Europa League final.
In the opening period at St. Jakob-Park in Basle, Liverpool assumed a ferocious intensity, pressing the Spanish champions relentlessly, while transitioning from defence to attack seamlessly.
Indeed, the referee, Jonas Eriksson, should well have awarded the Reds at least one penalty for what appeared blatant hand balls.
Still, 10 minutes from the turn, they got their just reward as Daniel Sturridge dispatched a bravura finish beyond David Soria.
As the players made their way to the tunnel at half time, there was zero indication that the Merseyside outfit were on the verge of a complete and utter capitulation, and that they would ultimately lose 3-1.
Within 18 seconds of the restart, Kevin Gameiro capitalised on Alberto Moreno’s unforced dereliction of duty to level the tie.
Subsequently, and almost inexplicably, the Liverpool players looked overwhelmed and shorn of brio. The brilliant Coke would then net an outstanding brace ensuring the La Liga side won the competition for the fifth time in the space of a decade.
Klopp has said that the May night is yet to leave him.
"Of course I've had a lot of thoughts about this. It was long ago but it still feels bad.," (published first in fourfourtwo.com).
"After the game I was not in the mood to think too much about the first half but later I did and it was obvious that we'd played a good game in the first half and we could have been in a clearer lead.
"We could have had a penalty for handball, all this stuff that you see afterwards. It's not interesting because it's over but as a human being it's quite difficult to accept all this stuff. Of course you have moments when you still suffer a little bit."
Klopp is also yet to reconcile exactly what precipitated Liverpool’s second half implosion, though there was a consensus that Seville had merely exposed long standing defensive frailties.
However, as tends to be standard with the former Dortmund coach, who also presided over their League Cup final penalty shootout loss to Man City, there was no hint of attempting to attribute the stunning downfall elsewhere.
"In the second half, 18 seconds in was too soon. I've thought a lot about half-time but there wasn't anything too special that I could highlight - that we were not too sure about the game or something like this.
"We knew it was only half-time and there was still a lot of work to be done but then what happened, happened.
"When you watch it again you see that something broke at that moment. Different players had no weapons any more. They had no power and no confidence.
"You saw that. We went too deep in a lot of positions and we were not close enough to the challenges.
"All of it was not too good but it was, of course, about the intensity that we had had on the way to the final. We'd had to over-perform one or two times, we had to play very special games and we'd had a lot of games.
"We'd tried everything to have fresh legs for the final, but none of this is an excuse because this was not a final that we should have lost but we lost and that's the truth."
Meanwhile, Liverpool today confirmed the signing of defender Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg while, later on, they face Huddersfield Town in their latest pre-season friendly.