The power of Anfield was enough for about 60 minutes to push Liverpool to one of those special European nights, but even the prowess of Luis Suarez from set pieces (two wonderful free kick goals) wasn’t enough to make up for the mistake of Jamie Carragher early on.
On his 150th appearance in European competition, Carragher made sure it would also be his last. After winning back his place in the first XI in the last few weeks, coinciding with his retirement announcement, Carragher had to go and mess it up like a typical Liverpool centre back this season (although the f%^& ups are usually the business of Martin Skrtel), and put a negative mark on his final European performance.
It’s probably the first mistake I’ve seen him make since I’ve been at the club – and that includes every day in training. I thought he was brilliant, the way he controlled Hulk, who is a real threat with his strength and power. I’m disappointed for Carra because he’s a brilliant professional. He deserved to go into the next round, but it’s not to be.
Maybe, if Hulk wouldn’t have scored that goal, Liverpool wouldn’t have been galvanized to begin their comeback that ended in the 59th minute, and fizzled out due to exhaustion in the final minutes, with even the famous Anfield support not sounding like before. Something in the life-force of this club has weakened in recent seasons, and it’s going to need a good season in the Premier League to bring it back. The center of that plea is Luis Suarez.
While Liverpool do show from time to time they are more than a one man team, it’s impossible to see them or even imagine where they would be without Luis Suarez. Yes, his diving won’t stop, and his borderline dirty antics (like stepping on a Zenit player, seemingly by accident) happen too often for them to actually be accidents, but there’s no arguing about his production, his versatility and about the fact that he’s one of the best strikers in the world. Suarez has now scored 23 goals in all competitions for the club, and for Liverpool fans, it’s probably quite a depressing thought to try and envision the club without him.
Liverpool have a penalty kick to claim they didn’t get, but that would be lying to everyone saying that’s the decision that kept them from qualifying. It was their own lack of concentration in the first leg, including three amazing misses by Suarez in Russia, and those four minutes when everything fell apart for them.
It was Carragher simply zoning out for a minute, allowing Hulk the chance to show that despite his price, Zenit made a good deal on one of the best forwards in football today. It was Liverpool not making the most of their momentum in the final 30 minutes of the match, with the 3-1 barrier standing firm, while their powers and adrenaline faded away. There wasn’t enough magic, or in other words, an exhausted Steven Gerrard, to push them into the next round.