John Gibbons: Liverpool fans were treated like criminals in Seville, but the real criminals were their team’s defence

Tuesday night was very much a debacle on and off the pitch in Spain...


Well, Tuesday was interesting. A debacle on and off the pitch in Seville – as police treated ordinary fans like criminals for simply wanting to watch some football and some criminal defending by the footballers themselves – saw Liverpool give up a three-nil lead to draw a game they looked sure to win.

It all felt like a bad case of dèja vu.

How many times do English clubs (and I’m sure it happens to other fans too) have to go abroad and be badly treated by the people paid to protect them before anything is done about it?

Why, in 2017, are travelling fans still described as “hooligans” by local TV networks just for drinking and singing in bars? Why is this atmosphere created to allow police to do whatever they want, seemingly unchallenged?

And is anyone in this country willing to stick up for the football fan?

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On the pitch, how many times can Liverpool throw away leads due to amateur defending before the life is sucked out of the season? At what point to the attacking players, who largely did their job, again, get fed up and stop bothering? Or look for other clubs where their goals are more likely to win games of football? Ones where they spine of the team isn’t, well, spineless.

The sad thing is I’m not particularly surprised by either any more.

Not by Spanish police who act hostile from the off and meet any questioning of their methods or bizarre policies with brute force. It seems to happen nearly every time. Neither am I surprised by this Liverpool side wilting under the first sign of any pressure or quality by the opposition. It seems to happen nearly every time.

Of course, what fans have to put up with from police is more serious than what fans have to put up with from footballers. A trip to the wonderful city of Seville should be enjoyable regardless of the result. Besides, a draw isn’t a bad result there – only the way it came about was frustrating.

But many fans didn’t even get into the stadium at all. Those who were told they had to leave belongings, anything from bags, books to, bizarrely, an orange, and couldn’t risk the two-hour wait of which they were warned it would take to get them back because they had a flight to catch. Men and women who turned up with – pre-approved – flags only to be told they couldn’t take them into the ground and were attacked for asking why.

Where any complaints were met with ejection rather than understanding.

Tweets we put out from The Anfield Wrap account were met by responses from Leicester City fans saying they had received similar treatment the season before, as well as the usual and predictable “always the victims” stuff from fans of many other clubs.

Which begs the questions, should all football fans be standing together on this issue to try and ensure it happens less? Should we believe each other rather than resort to name calling an points scoring? As a Liverpool fan shouldn’t I speak out when it happens to Leicester City, or Spurs or Manchester United and not just to fans of my own club?

It feels to me that the only way we might see change is if English clubs and fans group together and use their considerable power to force UEFA to act. No more warning or tiny fines, but proper punishment for clubs whose stewards can’t treat football supporters like human beings. English clubs should be offering to steward games themselves if European clubs don’t feel they can cope with 3,000 English men and women just looking to enjoy themselves.

If they are in the Champions League they can afford to fly them over.

English clubs, especially at Liverpool, are always keen to market their supporters as their 12th man. It is time they started treating us with a similar level of importance to the other eleven.

But that other eleven at Liverpool….what to do with them? The predictability of the result once Sevilla scored their first was the worst thing. Liverpool’s clean-sheet record is actually pretty good this season, but once they concede one they inevitably concede two, or three, or, in the cases of Spurs and Manchester City away, four or five. Once the floodgates open they really open.

Those last two results against fellow challengers at the top are particularly worrying, with seemingly free-scoring Chelsea coming to Anfield on Saturday. Four goals against Qarabag FC made it eight away from home in a week for Chelsea. Having said that, Liverpool scored seven at Maribor before being walloped by Tottenham. So they should be wary about reading too much into big away wins at European minnows.

But Hazard, Morata and co look bang in form and will surely be licking the lips at the thought of running at Liverpool’s defence. We just need to try and make sure they can’t reach it too often. Either that or just outscore them. Although Chelsea haven’t conceded a goal in November either, which suggests it might be slightly tougher for The Reds than against Huddersfield and West Ham.

But you have to remain hopeful.

A stronger-than-expected Chelsea side midweek have 24 fewer hours to recover than Liverpool, on top of a 5,000 mile round trip to Azerbaijan. The later kick-off should ensure a great atmosphere at Anfield and Joel Matip, who rates at OK as Liverpool’s best centre half, should be back from injury.

I’m talking myself into a Liverpool win here. See how easily it’s done? 3-0 with an Alberto Moreno hat trick. Why not?

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What do you think?