Liverpool earn frustrating Europa point in Klopp’s first Anfield match
Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield debut ended in a frustrating draw against 10-man Rubin Kazan as Liverpool registered their third successive 1-1 Europa League draw.
With all the focus still on the new manager it was Liverpool’s other, somewhat forgotten, German, Emre Can, who delivered with an equalizer just before half-time to cancel out Marko Devic’s surprise opener. Their numerical advantage – Oleg Kuzmin was sent off for a second bookable offense in the 37th minute – should have produced a winner but for all the new-found positivity even a manager as accomplished as Klopp will take time to correct endemic failings.
His side did have a greater air of confidence about them and the watching principal owner John Henry, making a rare trans-Atlantic trip, will not be alone in hoping that will soon translate into results. There was a noticeable difference in approach at least in terms of team selection, however, as Klopp made just one change from the side which drew at Tottenham on Saturday.
It was exactly a year since Liverpool lost 3-0 at home to Real Madrid in the Champions League but just five of that line-up started against the Russians, placed 12th in a league of 16. Can came on as a substitute that day but the midfielder, shunted around by Klopp’s predecessor Brendan Rodgers, has been restored to his natural home in midfield – even if he did not look entirely comfortable on the left of a midfield three.
Kazan’s goal emanated from his area of the pitch as right-back Olek Kuzmin’s cross-field ball picked out Devic who controlled on his chest before poking high past Simon Mignolet. However, Can had a significant hand in winning the free-kick which led to the equalizer, effectively buying a foul off Kuzmin which resulted in the Rubin captain’s second yellow card in the 37th minute.
The German then anticipated perfectly as Philippe Coutinho’s set-piece came off Blagoy Georgiev, pouncing to convert from close range. Klopp celebrated the first goal of his reign with arms outstretched, Messiah-like, before turning to the Main Stand and punching the air.
It was virtually one-way traffic against the 10 men after the break but Nathaniel Clyne’s dithering cost the hosts the chance of a second when slipped in by James Milner. The 63rd-minute arrival of Christian Benteke for his first appearance in a month gave Liverpool more presence up front as it was playmaker Coutinho and not striker Origi who made way.
Benteke should have marked his return with a goal but volleyed over Clyne’s cross and then hit the post with a first-time shot 10 minutes from time. Liverpool lay siege to Rubin’s goal late on – aside from one Igor Portnyagin free-header which flew fortuitously wide – without success.