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“The latest example of Liverpool bottling it on the big stage”- How the papers reacted to FA Cup semi final defeat

It’s the morning after Liverpool’s abject 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi final. We round-up the best of the newspaper reaction.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 19, 2015: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard looks dejected as his side lose 2-1 to Aston Villa during the FA Cup Semi-Final match at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What a wretched performance that was by Brendan Rodgers and his talented Reds side. Who would’ve known they were playing for a place in the final of the world’s most famous domestic cup competition?

From start to finish Liverpool weren’t at the races in any department, and they were deservedly knocked out by Tim Sherwood more energetic, hungry side.

Philippe Coutinho‘s opener was soon cancelled out by Christian Benteke, before the excellent Fabian Delph scored the winner early in the second-half.

That’s now three big games in a month that the Reds have simply not turned up for- Man United and Arsenal being the other two- and there are now serious question marks about their mental state in crucial matches.

James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo made that point clear in his post-match report:

Brendan Rodgers had bullishly insisted Liverpool were ready to take the next step. Instead they fell flat on their faces during an embarrassing afternoon at Wembley.

[…]

This was no hard luck story, just the latest infuriating example of Liverpool bottling it on the big stage. The mental fragility which has prevented them from winning silverware under Rodgers previously came to the fore once again.

There was honour in defeat when they fell short in a thrilling Premier League title race last term and again when were narrowly beaten by Chelsea in the League Cup semi-finals earlier this season. Not this time.

The Echo‘s Andy Kelly made an interesting point in asking where on earth Liverpool’s fast starts of last season have gone:

You remember those (fast starts)? When Liverpool were blowing teams away within 20 minutes with lightning starts which the opposition simply couldn’t deal with?

Breathless pace, imagination, Blitzkreig football.

It is now Brendan Rodgers’ men who are showing the capacity to start slow and we all know how difficult it is to turn those beginnings around. Liverpool barely had the ball for the first five minutes and showed no real conviction to go and get it thereafter.

Where was the pressing game and energy so beloved of their manager? Liverpool were leggy, ponderous and confused.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 19, 2015: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard looks dejected as Aston Villa score the second goal during the FA Cup Semi-Final match at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Daily Telegraph‘s John Percy feels the Reds are paying for a summer of poor recruitment last year:

Rodgers is now the first Liverpool manager not to win a trophy inside his first three seasons since the 1950s and will face renewed scrutiny after this defeat.

How he must wish he could turn the clock back to pre-season so he could spend the £75million received from Luis Suarez’s sale properly.

For such a crucial game in the club’s season the pressure was on the likes of Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren and Mario Balotelli to perform but they struggled once again and the finger has to be pointed at Rodgers and his recruitment team.

After last season’s achievements Rodgers deserves more time but he will face a renewed examination over his signings this summer.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 19, 2015: A Liverpool supporter looks dejected during the FA Cup Semi-Final match against Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Daily Mail‘s Ian Ladyman was full of criticism of Rodgers, who experienced a very bad day of the office:

Without a trophy for the third season running and unlikely to qualify for the Champions League, this is a campaign that must now be labelled a failure.

As such, Rodgers will head in to the summer under gently increasing pressure at Anfield to produce something tangible next time round.

Certainly, Rodgers failed spectacularly here at Wembley and, as such, his sense of regret will mirror that of his captain.

[…]

The Irishman can be a clever coach but on Sunday he didn’t appear so.

Finally, Dave Kidd of the Mirror focussed on the below-par performance of Steven Gerrard, whose dreams of winning the FA Cup on his final Liverpool appearance went up in flames:

For 86 minutes, it appeared as though Steven Gerrard was more than ready for his ­lucrative knacker’s yard in the Californian sunset.

As a gripping FA Cup semi-final passed him by – with rival captain Fabian Delph doing a passable impression of a vintage Gerrard – the seniors tour of Major League Soccer was all the Liverpool skipper looked good for.

In his first start for more than two months, and on his first appearance since that 39-second red card cameo against Manchester United, Gerrard was notable only for his lack of match sharpness and the wastefulness of his set-piece delivery.

[…]

Gerrard was left virtually on his knees (at the end), staring into space, ­contemplating his semi-­retirement in Tinseltown and ruing what might have been.

Next up for Liverpool is Saturday’s Premier League clash at West Brom (3pm kick-off GMT), in which victory is paramount if their faint chances of finishing in the top four are to stay alive.

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