How did Liverpool not win that? Nobody will know. A tennis score would not have been an unjust reflection of play in Moscow, but in the end, Liverpool and Spartak Moscow had to share the points as the Reds failed to make their superiority count.
Philippe Coutinho cancelled out Fernando’s free-kick that gave Spartak the lead, but the Reds could see this game as one where it got away, at the end of the group stages.
Here are some major talking points from the game.
Spartak were missing six regular first-team players. If losing to a second-string Leicester was bad, then this is worse. There is no way any Liverpool side should be dropping points against this Spartak Moscow side. Spartak set up defensively, wasted time where they could, and had their two goalkeepers in inspired form. BUt truth be told, Liverpool did not really work the Spartak goalkeepers anywhere near enough.
Can the goalkeeper experiment end?
Simon Mignolet played a big part in Liverpool making the Champions League. The Belgian put in a string of heavyweight performances towards the end of last season which enabled the Reds to finish 4th. It must be disgruntling for him to have to warm the benches in a competition that features Europe’s elite. Loris Karius did himself no favours either. His positioning for the free-kick was suspect and he didn’t really move quick enough to his left. That free-kick was nowhere near the corner, and it should have been saved. When the Reds head to Slovenia in three weeks time, Mignolet will hope to get the call from his manager, and he should.
Finish our chances, please?
Roberto Firmino, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge were all guilty of missing gilt-edged opportunities to score. Firmino had a free header in the first half, that he should have put beyond Artem Rebrov. He was caught napping soon after as Serdar Tasci missed Jordan Henderson’s cross and Firmino didn’t expect it. In the second half, Salah had a headed chance similar to Firmino’s and Sturridge would generally bury those kinds of chances in his sleep. Liverpool should have easily had at least four goals on the night in a game that they controlled, and that is why it is even more frustrating for them to come back to England with only one point.
They are allowed in football, you know, Jurgen? Three of them in 90 minutes. This was another game in which Klopp did not utilize his full quota of substitutes, even though the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner were available to bring on. Even the ones he made, Klopp got it wrong. Firmino was having an off day in all respects, and Sadio Mane would have been fresh having not played football in two weeks. But it was the Senegalese who made way for Sturridge to come on when it should have been the Brazilian.
Can we get the balance right?
This was one of those rare games when you can say that Liverpool’s centre-backs did not put a foot wrong. Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip did their jobs to perfection. Lovren, in particular, kept it simple – see the ball, whack the ball, was largely the mantra for the Croatian, and he was positionally very good. But you would not expect Liverpool’s attackers to draw the blank that they did tonight. This sort of defensive performance would give Lovren and Matip confidence, but the front four having too many games like this will destroy theirs. Firmino has not been the same player since he missed the penalty against Sevilla, and one can only hope that it is just a case of having a bad day than a recurring theme.