It's Istanbul in reverse as Liverpool are crushed by Sevilla
Memories of an oh-so famous night in Istanbul were revived in the 2016 Europa League Final in Basel, yet this time the cruel twist in the tale turned against Liverpool.
As Sevilla romped away with a record breaking third successive Europa League trophy with a 3-1 win against Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, the beaten finalists were left to ponder what might have been on a night when glory appeared to be within their grasp throughout a one-side first half.
Liverpool could and should have been at least three goals ahead going into the break on a night when they ran Sevilla ragged as they closed in on the trophy and the Champions League place that came with it in front of a raucous crowd dominated by Reds supporters.
Daniel Sturridge’s (below) sublime opening goal was the difference between the sides as the referee sounded his whistle to signal the half-way point in the final, yet Spain’s defending champions were being outclassed before an audience of millions around the world.
All that before a goal from Kevin Gamiero 17 seconds into the second half transformed this game in an instant, with two more goals from Coke plunge a dagger into Liverpool hearts and handing Sevilla glory and the duel prize that came with it.
This was Istanbul in reverse, with AC Milan’s first half rout of Liverpool 11 years ago paving the way for what appeared to a comfortable win for the Italian side, only for Liverpool to bite back with their iconic second half surge that ended with a penalty shoot-out victory.
It was AC Milan sinking in quicksand back in 2005, yet the second half of this European final saw Klopp’s Liverpool pushed back onto the ropes and handed a dizzying knock-out, with the celebrations that greeted the final whistle confirming that Sevilla have a stranglehold on this competition like no other team.
If only Liverpool had rammed home their advantage with a little more authority, if only the referee had given them one of three penalties they appealed for in the first half (one of which could easily have been given for handball).
What if Sturridge had got a boot on a cross from Nathaniel Clyne in the final seconds of the first period that could have handed Liverpool a commanding lead? What if.....what if....
They are agonising moments that will haunt Liverpool’s manager, players and fans throughout a summer that will be all the more painful given the knowledge that the prize of Champions League football slipped through their grasp when it was there for the taking in Basel.
There have been so many wonderful European nights in Liverpool’s long history, but this one will go down as one of their most painful.