Liverpool’s first season under Brendan Rodgers will end without a trophy in their hands. That fate was confirmed via a cruel away goal defeat to Russia’s Zenit St Petersburg in the Europa League on Thursday.
An error from Jamie Carragher on his 150th and, ultimately his last, European appearance for the Reds allowed Hulk to score Zenit’s crucial away goal and put them up 3-0 on aggregate—the Reds immediately hit back through a fierce free kick from Luis Suarez and a close range effort from Joe Allen.
A stunning free kick from Suarez made it 3-1 in the second half, but the Reds weren’t able to turn dominance into a fourth goal on the night, as they paid the price for the brief minutes of miscontrol during the 2-0 first-leg defeat in Russia a week ago.
Here are six lessons that Liverpool will have learned from tonight:
The Uruguayan was visibly distressed at the full-time whistle as his efforts at Anfield ultimately came to nothing.
He must have been thinking of the several chances he missed in the first leg as Liverpool sought a crucial away goal, but Suarez couldn’t have done anything more to try and turn the tide in this match. At times he was a one-man army.
His two free kicks were brilliantly executed, and the forward looks like he’ll be around to perform feats like that for seasons to come.
He longed for it, and Liverpool’s social media efforts during the hours before it helped make it possible, but Brendan Rodgers ended up seeing his “great European night at Anfield” even though the result didn’t go his way.
Players and fans couldn’t have performed any better for the Reds manager, and the hope has to be that this will inspire him to impress and deliver more occasions like this in the years to come.
Although winning the tie might be nice next time.
Jamie Carragher’s many years in the Liverpool team have barely been flawless, and his error here only exhibited that in greater detail.
It is unfortunate to think that his last European appearance will feature the error that allowed Hulk to score, but in many ways it might represent a top and tail to his career—the middle portion of it was truly enjoyable to see.
Joe Allen’s two goals for Liverpool thus far have happened to come in matches where the Reds have been knocked out of the FA Cup and now the Europa League.
If he’s allowed to settle into the club and life in and around this team, then he should be able to thrive—the Welshman once again showed intelligence and neatness with the ball at his feet.
It may well take a while for him to establish himself in this squad, but he did well here.
Rodgers turned to Morocco’s Assaidi from the bench as Liverpool chased another goal in the dying moments of the tie—although he didn’t help deliver one, it was refreshing to see the manager put his faith in a player many had forgotten about.
Assaidi shows plenty of promise, and the faith that the manager put into him will be a key factor in what happens for the remainder of his Reds career.
There are now only 11 matches left in Liverpool’s season—for many, this season probably can’t end soon enough.
It has shown promise though―not least tonight―and it is impossible to think just how much better the night may have been for Liverpool had they been able to call upon the cup-tied Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho.
The challenge now is to make sure those players are playing European football next season.