Jordan Henderson has insisted Liverpool’s defending was not the principal cause of their alarming collapse against Sevilla but conceded Jürgen Klopp’s team “let themselves down” in the Champions League.
Liverpool missed the chance to qualify for the knockout stage as group winners with a game to spare after squandering a three-goal interval lead in Andalusia on Tuesday. Alberto Moreno was withdrawn against his former club having erred for Sevilla’s first two goals, scored by Wissam Ben Yedder, while Guido Pizarro equalised in the 93rd minute when Liverpool failed to clear a corner.
Henderson, however, believes Liverpool were ultimately punished for not maintaining the supply line to the forwards Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, who were rampant in a first half when Sevilla’s 12-month unbeaten home record appeared over.
“We let ourselves down,” Liverpool’s captain said. “The performance in the second half undid all the good work we did in the first. We were disciplined, kept the ball at the right times, scored brilliant goals and defended well. Even though I thought they had good chances in the first half I thought we defended well. It just felt as though we didn’t start well in the second half, straight from the kick off, and we didn’t recover.
“They scored the first and the crowd got up. They started to have a good go and it became difficult then. We didn’t play as much as football as we should have. The biggest thing for us was that we stopped playing, stopped getting the ball up to the front three. They were getting it back cheaply and it invites pressure.
“It was really disappointing. It doesn’t feel good but at the same time when we come to look at the table it is still in our own hands. We are top of the group, we have to try and stay positive.”
Klopp denied that Liverpool’s poor reaction to Sevilla pressure indicated a lack of character in his team, saying rather that it was inexperience in quelling hostile atmospheres. That view was backed by Georginio Wijnaldum, who admitted Liverpool needed “to play smarter” when leading 3-0.
“We were really ruthless in the first half and if you are 3-0 ahead against Sevilla away you have to play smarter and you have to know when they score, with the crowd they have, they get more and more confident,” Wijnaldum said.
“The second half we didn’t start good and then they scored one goal to give them confidence and then another one with a penalty and they started believing. The crowd was behind the team and in that moment it was really difficult. At that moment we had to keep the 3-2 but at the end we gave it away with a set piece.
“I don’t think it is a bad result to get a draw in Seville but the way we gave it up I don’t think is a good sign. It is painful when you look back at the game but we have to go again Saturday. We have to speak with each other, lift each other up, put this behind us and concentrate on Chelsea.
“On paper it is a good result. The good thing is we still have it in our own hands and we have to win against Spartak Moscow to go to the next round.”
Liverpool will secure a place in the knockout stage with a draw against the Russians at Anfield on 6 December, while they will win the group if they beat Spartak. Henderson insisted the painful lesson in Sevilla will be learned.
“If you look at the first half there were positives to take from the game,” he said, “and in the second half we still had chances late on to go 4-2 up. But we have to learn from it as best we can and make sure that if we are ever in that position again it doesn’t happen again.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010