Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp promised his side will come back stronger after they let a 1-0 lead slip to lose 3-1 against Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League final on Wednesday at St. Jakob-Park in Basel, Switzerland.
The Reds took a first-half lead through Daniel Sturridge but were overwhelmed after the break as a Coke double and Kevin Gameiro's goal earned manager Unai Emery's side a third successive Europa League triumph.
Klopp bemoaned a lack of concentration from his side after the break but bore much of the responsibility himself following the disappointing defeat, his second final loss in his seven months as Liverpool boss, per BT Sport (via Alistair Tweedale in the Telegraph):
[A] 1-0 [lead] at half time is usually good, [to concede at] the first move of the second half, of course it's a knock. We didn't concentrate enough.
What happened next was the problem. We weren't compact for a second and did not defend well. We have to carry on and use this experience to be stronger. I'm sure we will be stronger.
I'm responsible for this performance. I have spoken to my players because tomorrow we will split all over the world.
We are responsible for not being in the Champions League and we need to use the time we have over summer to improve. We will come back stronger, I promise that.
Reds skipper James Milner said Liverpool did not play anywhere near their best and also lamented the fact they would not be in any European competition next season—victory on Wednesday would have earned them a spot in the UEFA Champions League—per BT Sport (via James Pearce in the Liverpool Echo):
We were devastated but the most disappointing thing was we played nowhere near our abilities. Everyone was switched on, but we gave a sloppy goal away in the first seconds of the second half. It was all about winning the trophy, and it is a double blow not being in Europe next year. It will take a long time to get over this but we need to regroup. We need to learn from that and make sure next time we finish the job.
Liverpool capitulated after they conceded the equaliser from the second-half kick-off, but Sevilla were excellent after the break as they won the tournament for the fifth time in 11 years.
Emery praised his side's belief and acknowledged the Sevilla fans, who were significantly outnumbered by their Liverpool counterparts, per UEFA Europa League:
Man of the match Coke noted on air the dedication required from Sevilla to have won the Europa League again despite numerous departures, per Spanish football writer Dermot Corrigan:
It seemed tough for us, they could have scored second, but this team has heart and soul and gave everything.
Every summer 10 players leave and we must build a new team. This must be valued a lot as we have worked so hard.
We knew we were not very many [Sevilla] fans. But each one [of us] is worth four [of them].
We still have another final to play [against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey on Sunday]. This is a very special week, it’s impossible to begin it in a better way.
Liverpool edged a cagey first half and went into the break 1-0 up after a brilliant strike from Sturridge 11 minutes from half-time.
Receiving a lay-off from Philippe Coutinho on the edge of the box, the Englishman curled a finish home with the outside of his boot to give Klopp's side the advantage, via the Europa League:
The lead did not last long, though, as Sevilla stormed out the blocks in the second half, scoring directly from the kick-off as Gameiro finished off a flowing move just 17 seconds after the break.
Former Sevilla star Alberto Moreno had been caught napping at left-back, allowing Mariano Ferreira to cruise into the box and put the ball on a plate.
The Spanish outfit looked like a different side from the first half, and they terrorised Liverpool from the off after the break.
They went 2-1 ahead through Coke just after the hour as he swept home a brilliant finish from the edge of the area after a neat exchange from Vitolo and Ever Banega.
As noted by the Guardian's Sachin Nakrani, it was not unexpected:
Then came the knockout blow 20 minutes from time as Coke claimed his second to put the game all but out of reach for the Reds.
The Sevilla skipper made no mistake to slot past Simon Mignolet as he was found in acres of space on the right of the penalty area, and although there was controversy over a potential offside, the goal rightly stood, per the Times' Henry Winter:
Liverpool barely had a chance to get back into the game, and Sevilla deserved their win on the night after a brilliant second-half performance.
Their record in the Europa League is quite remarkable, and they were simply too good for Liverpool as they earned an unprecedented treble.