James Milner refused to blame the officials for Liverpool’s Europa League final defeat to Sevilla, saying his side did not perform to the level they expected.
Jurgen Klopp’s side held a deserved 1-0 lead at half-time in Basle thanks to a brilliant Daniel Sturridge goal, but the holders produced a superb comeback to secure a 3-1 victory and clinch a third trophy in as many years.
The Liverpool boss confronted the referee after the match, with his side having seen two shouts for a penalty for handball waved away, while they felt aggrieved that the referee overruled a decision to flag Coke’s second goal for offside even though the ball had clearly come off Philippe Coutinho into the winger’s path.
Milner, however, insisted afterwards that his side cannot feel hard done by given their lacklustre display in the second half.
“It’s devastating losing the game but I think the most disappointing thing is that we didn’t show anywhere near what we’re about. We didn’t play anywhere near our abilities,” he told BT Sport.
“The linesman’s flag went up but the ref’s given it the other way. There were a few decisions which didn’t go our way but it’s nothing to do with the referee. We’ve shown throughout this competition that we’re good enough to win it but we haven’t tonight, the night that it mattered most – that’s the most important thing.”
The defeat – Liverpool’s second in a cup final this season, after their penalty shootout defeat in the League Cup to Manchester City – means Klopp’s side miss out on European football for next season, after they finished eighth in the Premier League.
“We haven’t really thought about the Champions League [qualification spot], it was all about winning this trophy,” Milner said. “It’s disappointing for a club of our stature and it’ll take a long time to get over it, but we have to regroup and learn from it. We’ve been to two finals this year and not managed to get over the line so we need to learn from that.”
Kevin Gameiro’s equaliser came just 17 seconds into the second half and Milner conceded that Liverpool never recovered from the setback.
“We were ready, we made sure we were on it and everyone was switched on, but we gave a sloppy goal away and never really got back into the game from that,” added the England international.
“We’ve shown that character time and time again to come back in this tournament this season but when you leave yourself too much to do that many times it’s very difficult to keep doing it.”
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