Following Liverpool’s exit from the UEFA Champions League at the group stage, there was no hard luck story from skipper Steven Gerrard.
[ RELATED: UCL standings ]
Gerrard, 34, bent in a free kick 10 minutes from time to make it 1-1 and give Liverpool’s 10-men hope but Brendan Rodgers’ side came up short and will now play in the Europa League after falling at the first hurdle in the UCL.
Lazar Markovic’s controversial red card didn’t help the Reds, something Gerrard acknowledged, but the captain of the five-time European Cup winners pointed the finger squarely at himself and his teammates for not making the last 16.
Speaking to ITV Sport in England after the game, Gerrard was asked if Liverpool deserved to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League.
“I don’t think we deserved better. We have not gone out because of this performance, we weren’t good enough away to Basel and we let in a silly goal away to Ludogorets. You qualify over six games and we have not been good enough.
“We need to get our main striker Daniel Sturridge back and get some more goals in the side. We need to get Mario Balotelli back and firing. That is not to take away anything from the lads who have played tonight and have slogged their guts out. Rickie Lambert has ran himself into the ground tonight, but it has just been a game too far and that has been because of a lack of numbers.”
[ RELATED: Champions League schedule ]
Simply put, Liverpool did not advance to the knockout rounds of the UCL because they didn’t beat Basel at home. Poor displays throughout the UCL have mirrored Liverpool’s Premier League struggles and the Anfield club got what they deserved.
Liverpool’s manager Brendan Rodgers admitted his side had lacked quality, but also lambasted referee Bjorn Kuipers for sending off Markovic at a pivotal point in the game.
“I thought it was an awful decision, I thought the referee was poor tonight to say the least,” Rodgers said. “Young Markovic has come on and been bright and, although he has put his hand out, it was not a sending off. The referee has seen the lad lying on the floor holding his face, but I don’t know if he has seen the actual incident.”
After working so hard to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in five years through their domestic displays last season, Liverpool did not rise to the occasion against Europe’s elite clubs. Only time will tell whether or not the Reds can return to the UCL next season, but crashing out at the first hurdle will be a damaging blow to the Merseyside club as they head to Manchester United on Sunday to try and get their Premier League campaign back on track.