Liverpool earn lifeless Europa draw ahead of Merseyside derby
Adam Lallana’s fourth-minute strike – his second goal in as many European matches – was cancelled out by Ebenezer Assifuah and the Reds failed to change the 1-1 scoreline in the remaining 73 minutes.
After an identical result in their opening match in Bordeaux, Reds manager Brendan Rodgers stressed their form at Anfield would be the deciding factor. He targeted three wins at home to get them out of Group B, but having now dropped two points they may have to recover those in either Kazan at the start of the Russian winter or in the return fixture against Sion in December.
"We are disappointed with the result," said Rodgers.
"The story of the game was obvious; we started well, got in front, gave away a poor goal and then created chances and should have maybe won a lot more comfortably but unfortunately ended up drawing and a bit frustrated.
On the evidence so far neither will be an easy task, especially considering Liverpool have won just one of their last nine matches in Europe since beating minnows Ludogorets at Anfield a year ago. A side currently sitting fifth in a Swiss league of just 10 teams not only managed to keep their more illustrious opponents at bay but also bounced back from conceding early to earn a point.
Rodgers made seven changes from the win over Aston Villa, but just like Saturday’s victory the hosts got the early goal as, for the first time in the few brief spells he has had on the pitch, Divock Origi offered a hint of the potential Liverpool spent $15 million on last year. The 20-year-old Belgium international, whose only previous start came in Bordeaux a fortnight ago, produced a burst of pace which took him past Leo Lacroix on the right of the penalty area, from where he crossed for Lallana, who had come back from an offside position in the initial phase of play, to score.
A similar Origi run and deflected low shot presented Jordon Ibe – playing as a left wing-back with little success – with a chance at the far post, while Joe Allen delayed too long in shooting and eventually chose the wrong option in trying to play in Danny Ings, who could not celebrate his first call-up to the England senior squad with a goal. And then, true to form, Liverpool conceded a soft equalizer when Nathaniel Clyne gave the ball away, and as it was transferred cross-field Joe Gomez stepped out leaving Ibe trailing behind Assifuah, who nipped in to shoot through Simon Mignolet’s legs.
Origi had one chance just before the break but appeared to have lost some of his earlier verve and this time allowed Lacroix to recover. The Belgian seemed to get his second wind after the break with a driving run through the inside-left channel but his shot only won a corner — and he was almost out-done by Kolo Toure, of all people, whose overhead kick dropped onto the crossbar.
Allen then put Origi — by now Liverpool’s only recognized striker after Ings was replaced by Philippe Coutinho — clean through but he shot straight at Andris Vanins, while at the other end Assifuah did likewise after turning Gomez. Lallana had the best chance to win it 16 minutes from time but shot straight at the goalkeeper with only Vanins to beat and for the second successive midweek match — after struggling past League Two Carlisle on penalties in the Capital One League Cup — boos rang out at Anfield.
"Tonight the story was about the chances. We have enough chances to win the game and that is the disappointment."
Rodgers will make wholesale changes again for the derby against Everton at Goodison Park, which considering the discontent among fans takes on even greater significance.
"We go into the game against Everton and we will focus on our performance. The players will look forward to it," he added.