Liverpool squandered the chance to end an 11-year European drought as defending champions Sevilla came from behind to secure an unprecedented third successive Europa League title in Basle.
Daniel Sturridge’s exquisite first half goal would have been worthy of winning any UEFA showpiece but Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to capitalise and went to pieces in the second half.
Kevin Gameiro scored just seconds after the interval as the Reds were exposed defensively before Coke grabbed two in the space of six minutes to end Liverpool’s dream of a return to the gloried European nights of yesteryear and also a place in next season’s Champions League.
In the build-up Liverpool’s players were at pains to stress how much belief Klopp has given them during his seven months in charge and how they had learned from the experience of losing February’s Capital One Cup to Manchester City.
But having taken the lead with Sturridge’s sixth goal in his last nine starts they failed to get the job done as a more streetwise Sevilla made it five wins in this competition in the last 11 years.
It was not quite Istanbul – the scene of their last trophy at this level with a remarkable Champions League victory over AC Milan – in reverse for Liverpool but the defeat was a devastating blow for over 22,000-plus fans who made it into St Jakob-Park – despite a 12,000 ticket allocation.
“We started off really well, we scored a wonderful goal, had our chances, had a disallowed goal,” said Klopp afterwards. “The second half is not about the first goal it’s about not concentrating enough for the second goal.
“We did not defend well and were nervous and that shows our development is not as good as we hoped but we will use this experience to be stronger and I am sure we will be stronger if we use it in the right way, but for tonight it is disappointment and frustration.”
Liverpool captain James Milner knew the second-half performance was not good enough.
“I am devastated at losing the game,” said the former Leeds United favourite. “But the most disappointing thing is in the second half we didn’t show what we are about, we played nowhere near our abilities, that’s the biggest thing for me.”