“Sterling and Sturridge careless” – How the papers reacted to Liverpool’s Europa League exit

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Liverpool exited the Europa League on Thursday, after a penalty shootout defeat against Besiktas. We round-up the best newspaper reaction this morning.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - Thursday, February 26, 2015: Liverpool's Dejan Lovren blazes the vital fifth penalty over the bar and misses against Besiktas JK in the shoot-out after a 1-1 aggregate draw during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd Leg match at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After such an excellent run of form and performances of late, Brendan Rodgers’ side simply didn’t turn up in the Ataturk Stadium; home of the Reds’ greatest triumph in 2005.

A fairly decent first-half display proved irrelevant, as the hosts dominated the second-half and extra-time, before deservedly winning the shootout thanks to Dejan Lovren‘s wayward spot-kick.

Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge were particularly poor on the night, and the former’s questionable attitude and work-rate was especially disappointing at times.

The likes of Simon Mignolet, Martin Skrtel and Alberto Moreno performed well, however, while the midfield duo of Joe Allen and Emre Can gave it their all. It was to no avail though, and Rodgers and his side now have the Premier League and FA Cup to focus on.

Tim Rich of the Independent rued Liverpool’s defeat, as they failed to repeat the Istanbul heroics of a decade ago:

It will not go down as Liverpool’s most famous appearance at the Ataturk. They will not make a film about it; it will not become shorthand for everything that is wonderfully improbable in sport.

[…]

Simon Mignolet will not join Jerzy Dudek and Bruce Grobbelaar as Liverpool goalkeepers who have won penalty shoot-outs on the grand European stage. He did not get near any of the penalties he was required to save – no keeper would have done.

Then, with the score at 5-4 in the shoot-out, Dejan Lovren, whose £20m summer move from Southampton has soured with each passing week, sent his kick high into the night skies of Istanbul.

The Liverpool Echo‘s James Pearce was critical of both Sterling and Sturridge, in particular their inability to kill the tie off during a dominant first-half:

For 45 minutes they were in cruise control as they comfortably handled everything the Black Eagles threw at them. The Reds should have killed off the tie by grabbing a precious away goal but Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling carelessly spurned presentable chances.

Both picked a bad night to be alarmingly below par and in the second half Liverpool’s attacking threat dwindled.

The Echo‘s Ian Doyle had a few kind words to say about Mario Balotelli, who despite being far from perfect, showed some positive aspects to his game on the night:

Slowly building an understanding with Daniel Sturridge – this was only the second time the pair had started together up front – Balotelli played his strike partner in for a first-half chance that should have been tucked away.

He even refused to rise to the increasingly obvious attempts of Besiktas players to wind up him into a red-card offence. Okay, he faded badly during the final third of normal time before being substituted. But, having been chastised by Brendan Rodgers for his work-rate, is the penny finally beginning to drop?

Jack Lang of the Mirror was impressed with Can’s performance throughout, as Rodgers deployed the 21-year-old in his preferred midfield role:

Restored to the midfield after a lengthy spell at centre-back, the former Bayer Leverkusen man was impressive once more in Turkey. How refreshing it is to see a player whose main attributes are not physical thrive at the highest level.

Can is a study in intelligence and elegance, all subtle movement and measured passes… wherever he plays.

Next up for Liverpool is Sunday’s Premier League clash with Manchester City at Anfield. The midday kick-off has not been kind to the Reds, and after 120 gruelling minutes of football, the champions will surely be licking their lips.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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