Liverpool found wanting against Basel again

Marcus Streller’s second half goal the difference as Brendan Rodgers’s side fall flat

FC Basel 1 Liverpool 0

Daniel Sturridge's importance to England irrespective of fitness will be revealed when Roy Hodgson announces his latest squad on Thursday. His value to Liverpool continues to rise in absentia with Brendan Rodgers's faltering team suffering a fresh setback with defeat in the Champions League to Basel.

Twelve years ago the Swiss champions signalled the end for Liverpool in the Champions League and, while it would be indecently premature to predict a repeat, Marco Streller's second-half goal could prove costly should Real Madrid seize control of Group B and leave these two clubs competing for second place. Not for the first time this season, a lack of purpose in attack and an aversion to defending set pieces were at the root of a Liverpool defeat.

Lively St Jakob Park has proved a troublesome destination for English clubs in the Champions League – Chelsea losing here last season, Manchester United being eliminated on this ground in 2011 plus Gerard Houllier's Liverpool in 2002 – but all was not well with the Swiss champions before the return of the Anfield club. Paulo Sousa, Rodgers's predecessor as Swansea City manager, has taken Basel back to the top of their domestic league after 10 games of his inaugural season in charge yet there is already an online petition against his brief reign.

Constant team changes and the opening 5-1 Champions League defeat by Real Madrid are among the causes of discontent with . Far from being cowed, however, the Basel manager called on his players to repeat their performance at the Bernabeu, insisting another display containing 50 per cent possession and 16 shots would “give us a great chance of winning this match”. The advice was heeded as Sousa’s side made a confident start and posed a greater threat to Liverpool throughout the first half.

Rodgers's early-season problems pale by comparison although the quest for Liverpool's irrepressible attacking threat of last term and to install overdue solidity in defence have become repeated frustrations. Jose Enrique was given only his second start of the campaign in place of Alberto Moreno at left-back but was unable to stem Basel's attacks down his flank, although the Spaniard was one of Liverpool's better outlets in the final third. The €25m summer signing Lazar Markovic started somewhat surprisingly ahead of Adam Lallana and, while livelier than in recent displays, has still to show the form that impressed for Benfica last term.

Raheem Sterling was characteristically prominent for Liverpool and struck a post from the visitors' first attack of the game when Mario Balotelli released Javi Manquillo down the right and the right-back's cross found the England international at the back post. The assistant immediately flagged for offside, however, cutting short Sterling's celebrations when he converted the rebound from the first attempt. A harsh booking for a trip on Ahmed Hamoudi followed shortly afterwards for the Liverpool forward.

Other than a Jordan Henderson goal-bound shot that deflected into the path of the offside Markovic, and an Enrique cross that Marek Suchy headed away from the incoming Henderson at the back post, Liverpool opportunities were limited. Basel lost the left-back Behrang Safari to a knee injury after nine minutes but suffered minimal disruption as Sousa switched to a 3-5-2, prompting Rodgers to respond by changing Liverpool to 4-4-1-1, and saw his team frequently stretch the visiting defence. Safari's replacement, Derlis González, was quickly up to the speed of Basel's energetic start and Liverpool's midfield offered little resistance as the home side found spaces outside the visitors' area too easily.

Streller almost punished a Steven Gerrard error when the Liverpool captain squandered possession on the edge of his penalty box but made amends by blocking the Basel captain's low shot. The under-pressure Simon Mignolet saved from Hamoudi, who later drove an inviting cross inches away from Streller's forehead, and also denied Serey Die after the midfielder cut inside two Liverpool defenders after a neat exchange with the towering Basel centre-forward.

Basel’s biggest problem on the night was self-inflicted when a battery appeared to be thrown in the direction of the assistant referee next to Tomas Vaclik’s goal. The object was handed to a Uefa official, a warning was sounded over the PA but the Swiss club could face further sanction.

Basel were fined €128,500 (£100,000) and ordered to play two matches behind closed doors (with one game suspended for two years) after a similar incident in a Europa League game against Salzburg in March.

On the field, the threat from Streller increased after the interval and Liverpool's defending at a setpiece was lamentable once again when they deservedly fell behind. Sterling was extremely fortunate not to concede a penalty when he pulled down Gonzalez as the substitute shaped to shoot inside the area, then Hamoudi broke clear down the left and drew a fine save from Mignolet low to his left. Moments later, from Taulant Xhaka's corner, a distracted Martin Skrtel miscued a header towards his own goal, Mignolet scooped the ball clear but only into the path of Streller who converted from close range.

The breakthrough finally wakened Liverpool but Markovic was unable to convert several decent openings, one from a thunderous Balotelli free-kick that rebounded off the Basel goalkeeper, and Sterling wasted a great chance with a dreadful first touch when put clear by the Italian striker.