Liverpool’s miserable Champions League campaign came to a disappointing end, with the Reds failing to make the last 16 after a 1-1 draw at home to FC Basel.
Brendan Rodgers’ side knew only a win would secure qualification to the knock-out phase, but Steven Gerrard’s late free kick could not be added to, after the Reds had fallen behind to a first half strike from Fabien Frei.
The result meant Liverpool finished third in Group B, with just five points from six matches – and only one victory.
In what was a must win game for the Reds, Brendan Rodgers made the surprising decision to field a team that included four central midfielders in Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva, with Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho left on the bench.
That decision contributed to a lacklustre first half display, in which only Gerrard’s tame shot and Raheem Sterling’s decision to pass rather than shoot when well placed, proving the only decent moments.
Basel deservedly took the lead on 25 minutes, when Frei fired past the motionless Mignolet from the edge of the box after a neat exchange.
Rather the goal jolt the Reds into life, the Swiss champions played out the first 45 in total control, forcing Brendan Rodgers into a double half time change.
Alberto Moreno and Lazar Markovic were introduced, with the latter looking lively down the right hand side with Raheem Sterling moved into a central position.
But disaster struck with more than half an hour to play, when Markovic was shown a straight red card for raising an arm toward the face of Basel full back Safari.
Replay’s showed there had been minimum contact, but the decision did not have an overall effect on the game.
Referee Bjorn Kuipers from the Netherlands infuriated the Kop even further when he ignored appeals for a penalty as Gerrard went down as he and keeper Tomas Vaclik went for the ball, however this proved the correct decision.
All the build up to this game had centred around Steven Gerrard’s Olympiacos winner a decade ago, and the Liverpool skipper almost repeated the trick once more.
With eight minutes on the clock, Gerrard curled a perfect free kick into the top corner to give Liverpool hope.
And despite Basel goalkeeper Vaclik making decent saves from a deflection and a late strike from Jordan Henderson, it ultimately proved in vain.
Brendan Rodgers even resorted to throwing Martin Skrtel forward as a makeshift centre forward, and the Slovakian produced the final chance when turning Raheem Sterling’s cross wide in front of the Kop with two minutes remaining.
The Reds will now be forced to compete in the Europa League in the new year – something it would be had for even the most die-hard Liverpool fan to suggest they don’t deserve, after a thoroughly disappointing campaign amongst Europe’s elite.