Match data from Who Scored, as StatsZone doesn't cover the Europa League. Which means no Passing Network because StatsZone is the only service which carries pass combinations (you can still find the players' average position at ESPN FC though).
(Nota Bene: Here's the formation diagram usually included in match reviews.)
Yesterday saw Liverpool's 43rd match of the season, the same total that Liverpool played in all of 2013-14. So it's probably not coincidence that Liverpool started fairly brightly, but seemed dead on their feet by the time Besiktas scored, holding on for the penalty kick lottery by the least little bit of their fingernails.
Liverpool should have taken the lead in the first half, during the 20-25 minute spell when Liverpool were clearly on top, but when they didn't – and it's certainly not the first time Liverpool have paid for an inability to score – it was a matter of damage limitation, hoping that they could keep the narrow 1-0 lead from the first leg.
That Liverpool did not attempt a single shot after the 56th minute, through the last 64 minutes of the match, is a very bad thing.
And, yes, we can blame Liverpool's packed fixture list – for both fatigue and injuries – for a lot of that. Four certain starters and one probable starter out injured: Henderson, Coutinho, Gerrard, Sakho, and Lucas. Another missing through suspension. Just two of five senior central midfielders fit, including one whose presence is much more important in defense.
It's hard to argue that Besiktas didn't deserve to win that tie. There were very fine margins, but Bilic's game plan worked better than Rodgers' game plan, and Besiktas were by far the better side by the end of the yesterday's match.
Bilic's changes yesterday changed the match: switching Töre and Sahan opened up Liverpool in the second half, Arslan troubled Liverpool much more than Jose Sosa. And, you may remember, he also scored the game-winner. Rodgers' changes either did little or baffled, especially removing Balotelli rather than Sturridge. Balotelli had been in control of himself despite the early yellow, and was crucial to Liverpool keeping possession, if only briefly, in Besiktas' half, an outlet that Liverpool very much needed. Sturridge, despite taking Liverpool's most threatening shot and creating Liverpool's other good chance, still very much looked a step slow and off the pace, needing much more time on the ball than Besiktas would ever allow.
Over two legs, Besiktas took more shots, created more chances, had a higher pass accuracy, made more saves, committed fewer defensive errors, and made more successful tackles, dribbles, and block. That Liverpool made it to penalty kicks speaks well to the defensive improvement we've seen over the last few months.
But at the same time, the only reason that Besiktas didn't win the tie by more, didn't win the tie without needing extra time or penalty kicks, is the same problem that's so often plagued Liverpool. Eight shots in the first leg, just one on target. 21 shots in the second leg, just six on target. Over two legs, 24.1% shot accuracy, worse than Liverpool's in either leg of the tie. At the end of 210 minutes, these were very similar sides – similar strengths, similar weaknesses, and similar home and away tactics – and needing penalty kicks to set them apart seemed only fitting.
Yes, Liverpool made it difficult for Besiktas, forcing 20 of those 29 shots to come from outside the box, allowing just five Danger Zone shots in 210 minutes. Incidentally, none of those five Danger Zone shots were on target. Still, Besiktas also failed to take six excellent chances over those two legs. Three were from set plays: first half headers from Gülüm and Kavlak a week ago, Ba blasting off the cross bar in second half injury time yesterday. Three were from open play, and they were the only three memorable saves Mignolet had to make over two legs: Ba's breakaway a week ago, Sahan's effort from the left-side of the box in the 40th minute, and Töre's blast from the same spot that Arslan scored from in extra time.
Yesterday was a match in keeping with the rest of Liverpool's European campaign. It looked an awful lot like the away match at Basel – good but not great opposition, but an even worse performance from an understrength and/or underperforming Liverpool – and it's the same result as that away match at Basel. Liverpool played eight European games this season. Liverpool scored all of six goals (four against the mighty Ludogorets) and kept a clean sheet in just one match.
In two seasons, Brendan Rodgers' European record is now 9W-D4-7L, an average of 1.55 points per game. Remove the 2012-13 Europa League qualifiers, against Gomel and Hearts, and it's 6W-3D-7L (1.3ppg).
Even worse is this:
The away results are most in need of improvement. Shutout in 5/8 games. 5-3 0-1 1-0 0-2 0-1 0-1 2-2 0-1— Dan Kennett (@DanKennett) February 26, 2015
That's Rodgers' European away record not including the 2012-13 qualifiers against Gomel and Hearts (both 1-0 wins). That's horrific. Five shutout losses, a 1-0 win over Udinese, a 2-2 draw at Ludogorets, and that insane 5-3 match against Young Boys. Aside from that match at Young Boys, they've all been absolutely dire to watch as well.
And Liverpool have now lost both knockout ties they were involved in.
Sure, there are lots of ifs and buts. If everyone, or even one or two more players, had been available. If Sturridge or Sterling had taken a first-half chance. If Lallana hadn't missed a sitter in the first leg. If Liverpool had chosen a different fifth penalty taker (although, I hate blaming penalty-takers for misses, and feel sympathy for Lovren, who at least had the stones to take it). Etc etc etc.
And there are one or two rays of positivity. Liverpool's defense remained pretty decent, even with the two enforced changes (although it'd certainly have been better without those changes). Alberto Moreno was pretty excellent yesterday, as were Allen and Mignolet to a lesser extent. Liverpool had all those aforementioned key players missing and everyone else fatigued and still almost made it through.
But, once again, it wasn't good enough. And now, Liverpool have *checks watch* slightly more than 44 hours before hosting last season's defending champions in a match that was already crucial to the league campaign, and has now become even more important.