Brendan Rodgers slammed referee Bjorn Kuipers after half-time Reds substitute Lazar Markovic was sent off on the hour as Liverpool crashed out of the 2014 Champions League after a 1-1 draw with Basel.
The Reds put in a spirited late effort at Anfield but could not claim the necessary victory to advance to the last 16. The draw sends Basel through with Group B winners Real Madrid.
Fabian Frei put the visitors 1-0 up on 25 minutes and Markovic’s sending off made the task even more challenging, with Rodgers questioning the referee post-match but insisting his side will return to the competition next season, per the BBC’s Ben Smith and TEAMtalk:
The Serbian’s dismissal was indeed somewhat controversial. Though he did lash out with his hand at Behrang Safari, the Basel defender went down theatrically despite little to no contact.
However, it was still a stupid mistake from the 20-year-old Markovic as he should never have put himself in a position to see red, per the Manchester Evening News‘ Samuel Luckhurst:
It was also not necessarily the reason for Liverpool’s failure to win; they looked largely ineffectual in attack leading up to the dismissal.
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Inevitably, despite being down to 10 men, skipper Steven Gerrardwhipped in a beautiful free-kick for the equalizer with 10 minutes to go to give the Reds and their fans hope. However, Liverpool simply couldn’t claim the necessary winner.
Basel were largely dominant throughout the game and looked in fine form in the first half, Frei’s terrific goal from outside the area the culmination of a slick move, per The Telegraph‘s Henry Winter:
However, Paulo Sousa’s men seemed panicked after Gerrard’s strike and were hanging on when the final whistle blew, although they did have late chances to win it themselves.
Sousa hailed a historic night for his team after the game, per the Champions League:
Basel now go into the last-16 draw, which will take place Monday, while Liverpool confirmed third in the group—and a Europa League berth—courtesy of Real’s 4-0 victory over Ludogorets.
Whether a spot in the Europa League campaign will help or hinder Rodgers’ men as they aim to make the top four of the Premier League this season remains to be seen, but they will need to pick themselves up quickly from Tuesday’s result as they face Manchester United on Sunday.