Jürgen Klopp’s first match in charge at Anfield ends in frustration as 10-man Rubin Kazan cling on valiantly for a point…
New Kop boss Jürgen Klopp made just the one change from the weekend stalemate at Tottenham Hotspur as Joe Allen replaced Lucas Leiva in central midfield.
The hosts, playing against the backdrop of a reinvigorated Anfield, attacked with plenty of pace and intent early on; Emre Can finding the side netting in the 9th minute.
Rubin also showed some admirable ambition of their own going forward in the opening exchanges as they looked to exploit Liverpool down the flanks.
Klopp’s men were producing patches of the quick pressing and incisive passing for which the German is famed but clear cut chances were yet to materialise.
Out of nowhere, in the 15th minute, the Russians took the lead in spectacular fashion when Marko Devic got the wrong side of Nathaniel Clyne, expertly controlled a through-ball on his chest and then coolly despatched it into the far corner of Simon Mignolet‘s net.
Liverpool responded well initially to the setback with Adam Lallana twice going close to fashioning an equaliser in quick succession.
Divock Origi and Philippe Coutinho also had efforts before the half hour mark but neither could find the target.
Possession wise the men in red were totally dominating but the experienced Sergey Ryzhikov remained relatively untested, dealing comfortably with speculative strikes from Lallana and Coutinho.
At the other end, Devic again showed great control to threaten a second but this time Mignolet was equal to it, producing a fine fingertip stop.
Soon after Rubin shot themselves in the foot badly when captain Oleg Kuzmin picked up a second booking and was sent for an early bath.
The aberration was instantly compounded when Origi knocked down the resulting free-kick and Can fired home from close-range.
Coutinho again went close before the half-time whistle but Liverpool continued to flatter to deceive from open play when in and around their opponent’s box.
The Merseysiders, for whom Lucas replaced Allen during the interval, again controlled proceedings after the restart but it took until the 56th minute for them to create an opening of note; Clyne driving to the byline but managing only to force a corner following a neat one-two.
Coutinho, who had struggled by his own high standards, had two more efforts easily thwarted before being replaced around the hour mark by Christian Benteke.
Rubin, especially with danger man Devic surprisingly sacrificed at the break, were now offering next to nothing in attack and seemingly content on purely defending.
They were almost the architects of their own downfall once more in the 66th minute when Magomed Ogdaev went close to scoring an own-goal despite being under little pressure.
Benteke should have given the increasingly frustrated home crowd something to cheer five minutes later but the fit-again Belgium international badly fired a pinpoint Clyne cross over the bar.
Liverpool threatened with greater consistency in the final 15 minutes as Benteke struck a post and Lallana forced a good diving stop out of Ryzhikov with an exquisite volley.
The pressure on Rubin was now almost constant as the Reds forced a succession of corners but a winner always looked likely to allude them, even with Roberto Firmino also now on the pitch.
Indeed, Igor Portnyagin almost produced a late sucker punch with a header as the hosts were forced to settle for a third consecutive 1-1 draw in this season’s Europa League.
Not the eye-catching showing most predicted as Klopp’s opening home match in charge contained many of the issues that repeatedly undermined his predecessor. For all the encouraging build-up play on show, a lack of killer instinct and poor decision making in the final third remain big concerns. With Daniel Sturridge still to return for anything like a prolonged run of games, and Origi, Benteke and Firmino still settling into life at Anfield, that will hopefully come in the not too distant future, injuries permitting. There are several other things that need to be worked upon as well though, especially set-piece delivery. Bar the delivery for the goal, and despite a number of different players trying their luck, it was extremely poor all night, especially the corners. Credit to Rubin though, they defended brilliantly and deserve plenty of praise for battling away for 57 minutes with 10 men. FC Sion’s win over Bordeaux in the other Group B fixture puts them firmly in the driving seat with Liverpool now four points behind in second. Getting something from the trip to Russia in two weeks time looks increasingly important.
Mamadou Sakho – The Frenchman has become a cult hero at the club and it’s easy to see why after another committed display. In addition to reading the game well and making a number of important tackles and blocks, Sakho drove forward with the ball at every available opportunity and showed an insatiable desire from start to finish. Notable mentions for Emre Can and Adam Lallana.
Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno, Allen (Lucas 45′), Can, Milner (c), Lallana, Coutinho (Benteke 63′), Origi (Firmino 74′).
Unused subs: Bogdan, Toure, Randall, Ibe.
So that’s what we thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your verdict below…
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