Liverpool accept their fate after misfiring campaign
Late heroics fail to secure a knock-out spot, but Brendan Rodgers says the team will 'take it on the chin'
There were mixed fortunes for English clubs in Tuesday's final round of Champions League group matches. Arsenal finished their campaign in style, winning 4-1 in Galatasaray, although Dortmund's 1-1 draw at home to Anderlecht means the Gunners finish second in group D, level on points with the Germans but with an inferior goal difference.
Liverpool, however, are out of the competition after the Reds were held at home to Swiss side Basel. Instead they'll spend the second half of the season in the Europa League, evidence of how far they've declined in the six months since they just missed out on winning their first Premier League title for 24 years.
Liverpool needed to beat Basel to go through as runners-up to Real Madrid in Group B but they went one down to Fabian Frei's effort on 25 minutes. Thereafter they struggled to impose themselves against their visitors (their plight not helped by the sending off on 45 minutes of Lazar Markovic), and it wasn't until 81 minutes when Steven Gerrard struck a wonderful free-kick that the Kop began to believe they might yet get their precious three points. But Basel held on for the draw and Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers later conceded his side deserved their fate. "We can't have any excuses about not qualifying," he told reporters. "We haven't been good enough over the course of qualification, but we've got take it on the chin and move into the next competition and we'll hopefully do better in that."
In truth Liverpool's European campaign has been a disaster with just one win in their six group stages, and that victory was only thanks to Gerrard's late penalty against Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets. "We need to get our main striker Daniel Sturridge back and get some more goals in the side," said Gerrard when asked how Liverpool can transform their season. "We need to get Mario Balotelli back and firing."
After firing blanks for much of their season, Arsenal finally found some high velocity ammunition in Turkey as they cruised to their fourth victory of the campaign. The game was done and dusted by the half hour mark when Aaron Ramsey scored one of the goals of the season, a magnificent 35-yard half-volley that had even the Galatasaray fans gasping in admiration.
It was the Welshman's second goal of the night, his first coming on 11 minutes when he buried Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's intelligent pass with cool precision. Prior to that goal Lukas Podolski had given Arsenal the lead after just four minutes with a strike that was more power than precision. The German striker, who was making only his second European start of the season, showed Arsene Wenger what he had been missing, with a thundering shot into the roof of the Galatasaray net.
Arsenal made a raft of substitutions in the second half as they prepared for Saturday's Premier League clash with Newcastle, and though Wesley Sneijder got a goal back for the hosts on 88 minutes the last word belonged to the Gunners with Podolski scoring his second of the night in stoppage time.
"I am very happy with the game, offensively in particular, we did a good job," said Wenger, who will feel some of the pressure drop from his shoulders as a result of the win. "It is my 15th successive time in the round of 16. I think that's a real achievement."