Liverpool’s return to Champions Leagude football has been far from a joyous one after their first two group stage clashes back in the competition.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have made life difficult for themselves in Group E, after failing to win their opening two games, dropping a total of four points over the course of a fortnight.
Liverpool opened the game brightly and for the first 20 minutes of the game the visitors looked to be the far superior side of the two, with Spartak Moscow employing a compact defence and looking vulnerable, when Liverpool’s attacking trio were allowed to advance on the final third.
The Reds enjoyed much of their success through Sadio Mane down the left side of the field, with the winger utilising his pace in abundance to cause the Moscow defence a significant amount of trouble.
Yet it was the Russians who broke the deadlock, with the opener coming as the result of a Moscow free kick won 25 yards from goal. Emre Can was caught, hesitant in possession and paid the ultimate price. The German midfielder lost the ball in the middle of the park resulting in a panicked response from the Reds.
A dubious free kick was given for a seemingly innocuous tackle from Philippe Coutinho, and his compatriot, Fernando, netted from the subsequent free kick.
Liverpool almost tabled an instant response through Sadio Mane, however the Senegalese winger’s goal was ruled offside.
After the goal Spartak began playing with a real air of confidence about them, stroking the ball across the midfield and asking questions of the Reds’ fragile defence.
However, they were unable to further capitalise on their brief period of dominance and Liverpool soon pulled themselves level from a brilliant bit of inter-play between Mane and Coutinho. The duo played a neat one-two between themselves, eradicating the Moscow defence before the Brazilian slammed the ball home, bringing the scoring to 1-1.
Throughout the remainder of the first half Liverpool were the dominant force with their control over the game culminating in a sublime counter-attack late into the half; an enticing opportunity they were unable to take advantage of as Mane was flagged for offside.
As the action resumed in the Russian capital, it was Liverpool who showed a continued spell of superiority. The Merseyside outfit came close to taking the lead on a number of occasions within the first 15 minutes of the second period, Coutinho denied from an enticing free kick and Mohamed Salah coming agonisingly close to poking the ball beyond Artem Rebrov having been played through by Mane.
Following Salah’s chance early into the second half, the Moscow keeper and captain, Rebrov, sustained a leg injury as a result of a collision with the Egyptian, seeing him replaced by Aleksandr Selikhov after a receiving a significant amount of on-field treatment.
As the second half crept on, Moscow look increasingly content to sit back and absorb the pressure Liverpool mounted on them, allowing the visitors to commit men forward and become stifled by their defence.
Throughout the latter stages of the second half the visitors became increasingly frustrated with Moscow’s passive approach to the game, the Russians sitting deep and committing the majority of their personnel to defensive duties.
In the end it was the same old story for Liverpool, enjoying the lion’s share of possession and chances, yet failing to find the all-important clinical edge to their game and succumbing to the few chances their opposition were afforded.
Too often they squandered the opportunities they engineered for themselves, the most agonising of which came six minutes into injury time when Salah connected with Trent Alexander Arnold’s cross, only to head the ball straight at Selikhov.
With fellow Group E opponents, Sevilla, tabling a 3-0 win at home to Maribor, the Reds have put themselves in a troubling situation, having found themselves incapable of picking up a win in their first Champions League campaign since the 2014/15 season.