Brendan Rodgers in firing line as Liverpool go out of Europe
Liverpool give away an early goal and can never climb back – especially after dodgy substitutions
Liverpool 3 Zenit St Petersburg 1. If Liverpool played football the way their manager talked nonsense the Reds would be at the top table of the European game. Instead, the club that has won more European Cups than any other British team finds itself dumped out of the Europa League at the last 32 stage.
Having lost 2-0 to Zenit in the first leg last week, Liverpool needed to score goals and not concede any at Anfield. But their evening began in the worst possible way when Jamie Carragher gifted the ball to the Hulk who fired past Pepe Reina for a crucial away goal after just 19 minutes.
That left Liverpool needing to score four to progress to the last sixteen. They got three, but three isn't four and so Liverpool are out of Europe, out of the FA Cup and way off the pace in the Premier League. Now the Kop knows what it feels like to be an Arsenal fan.
Despite the humiliating exit, manager Brendan Rodgers was in chipper mood after the tie, telling reporters: "The club and players showed why we are part of the world's greatest football family."
The greatest football family? This is a club that has gone through four managers in the past four seasons and whose supporters last night posted furious messages on the website of the Liverpool Echo after watching the game. More like dysfunctional family.
Most of the irate comments were directed the way of Rodgers, who seems to be adopting the Arsene Wenger approach of sticking his head in the sand.
Why, the Liverpool fans demanded to know, did Rodgers make a double substitution on 59 minutes when the Reds were running rampant after goals from Joe Allen and a pair from Luis Suarez (above right)?
In hauling off Allen and Jordan Henderson, and replacing them with Oussama Assaidi and Jonjo Shelvey, Rodgers shattered Liverpool's rhythm and allowed the game to slip from their grasp.
A club which once terrorised Europe's finest was reduced to playing the role of gallant loser. "I am very proud of the club and players, even though we lost the tie," said Rodgers. "It was a fantastic night… the crowd and players couldn't do more."
The players could have won, but Rodgers seems to be a manager more comfortable with heroic defeat than clinical success. Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley must be turning in their graves.
As one disgruntled fan complained to the Liverpool Echo, "End of season in Feb. Out of everything. This must surely be something of a record."
To compound Liverpool's woes all the other English clubs made it through to the last 16 of the competition, although Chelsea and Tottenham both left it very late to win their ties.
The most dramatic conclusion came in Lyon where Spurs were on the verge of going out on away goals when Moussa Dembele struck in the final minute to make it 1-1 on the night and earn Tottenham at 3-2 aggregate win over the French side. They will now face Inter Milam.
Eden Hazard scored in the second minute of stoppage time as Chelsea's tie with Sparta Prague appeared to be heading for extra time. But the Belgian's intervention made it 1-1 and gave the Blues a 2-1 aggregate lead.
Newcastle, who drew 0-0 in the first leg of their tie against Metalist Kharkiv, won 1-0 in Ukraine thanks to a penalty from Shola Ameobi. ·