Basel (Switzerland) (AFP) – Superior technique honed by playing in the “best league in the world” was key to Sevilla’s record-setting Europa League triumph over Liverpool on Wednesday, said the club’s French central defender Timothee Kolodziejczak.
Five-time European champions Liverpool travelled to St Jakob-Park in Basel confident of a first Europa League trophy since 2001.
But Jurgen Klopp’s men failed to build on Daniel Sturridge’s superb 35th-minute opener
When Kevin Gameiro caught Liverpool napping to equalise seconds after half-time, it opened the floodgates with Spanish midfielder Coke scoring twice in six minutes to give Unai Emery’s men a 3-1 lead by the 70th minute.
Coke looked offside for his second goal, when Ever Banega’s pass came off a Liverpool player. But after angry scenes that saw Klopp sprint down the touchline to confront the linesman, Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson pointed to the centre circle after consulting with his official.
Sevilla’s fifth Europa League trophy since 2006 means they earn automatic entry to next season’s Champions League.
Liverpool, who also lost in this season’s English League Cup final to Manchester City, walk away with nothing.
Klopp — in his first season in charge at Anfield — has now collected a fifth consecutive loser’s medal from his past five Cup finals.
The German said he will use Liverpool’s absence from Europe next season to improve his young squad ahead of a fresh assault, but for Kolodziejczak, Spanish clubs already have an advantage over their richer English counterparts.
Asked why Liverpool failed to muster a response in the second half, he told AFP: “We started the second half with a lot more desire. And we knew that, technically, we were better than them, although we also stepped up our game physically.”
Klopp looked to have made the correct choice when he left Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi on the bench as both have only recently recovered from injury.
Sturridge stepped in for Origi and after spurning two half-chances, he beat David Soria with a delightful shot with the outside of his left boot for Liverpool’s opener on 35 minutes.
It sent St. Jakob-Park into raptures, although the massive army of Reds supporters — some of whom got into scuffles with Sevilla fans inside the stadium prior to kick-off — were conspicuously quiet after the interval.
– ‘Best in world’ –
Sevilla had got off lightly when Liverpool twice saw penalty appeals waved away – defender Daniel Carrico handling twice in the area – but the Spaniards were a different team after the interval.
Gameiro had come close with a speculative overhead kick in the opening half and he made no mistake with an easy tap-in after right-back Mariano Ferreiro pounced on a poor clearance from Liverpool left-back Alberto Moreno seconds after the restart to power unchallenged down the right.
It brought an expletive-tainted reaction on Twitter from retired Liverpool great Jamie Carragher, who said: “Jurgen, transfer committee, anyone sign a f*****g left-back.”
The unwelcome irony for Reds fans is that Liverpool signed Moreno from Sevilla in 2014 for 12 million pounds (euros).
Klopp admitted: “Their first goal was a big influence on our game. We lost faith in our style of play, we lost our formation, (we were) not compact any more, but we’ve had this problem before.”
Kolodziejczak said the leveller changed their whole outlook.
“It gave us a huge boost and helped us to relax. And when we get relaxed, we can beat anyone,” he added.
“But we knew between ourselves that we were technically and tactically superior.”
Liverpool’s confidence sunk and when Banega dribbled through an inefficient Reds defence, Coke pounced to ram the ball past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from 20 yards.
It took several minutes for officials to finally decide whether Coke’s second was valid, but it will take Liverpool’s fans much longer to get over what was a poor second half display.
Despite his comments, Kolodziejczak has not ruled out a move to England.
“Everyone dreams about playing there. Maybe sometime in the future career,” he added. “I’ve never played in England, but it’s only Spanish teams winning the European Cups now.
“The Spanish League is the best in the world.”