Missed chances cost Liverpool as it dropped Champions League points in a 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow on Tuesday. After falling behind to Fernando’s free-kick for Spartak in the 23rd minute, Liverpool responded soon afterward with a fine finish by Philippe Coutinho.
Liverpool dominated the attack but Firmino and substitute Daniel Sturridge missed good chances, while Mohamed Salah had a header saved deep into injury time. That allowed Russian champion Spartak to hold on and hand Liverpool its second draw in two Group E games.
“In this moment we are not the most lucky team in world football,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “We did really well in creating chances against a very defensive-oriented team.” Klopp rued Liverpool’s “four or five 100 percent chances” and criticized the refereeing, saying that “the free kick (Spartak) scored with was not a foul.”
Liverpool’s Coutinho, Mane, Firmino and Salah — known as the “Fab Four” in a nod to The Beatles — started together for the first time, but with mixed results. “It’s not just lining up the players in the hope something will happen. You need rhythm,” said Klopp, keeping up the musical theme.
Coutinho and Mane may have combined for the goal, but Firmino’s most notable contribution came when he missed an open goal off a Jordan Henderson cross in the 38th. Coutinho had a good free-kick stopped by Spartak goalkeeper Artyom Rebrov in the 53rd when the Russian dived low and right to keep the ball out.
When Mane was substituted for Sturridge, Liverpool’s game lost much of its creative spark in attack. Liverpool pushed forward in the final minutes, but was rewarded only with a series of near misses. Sturridge got in behind the defense in the 90th but scooped the ball over, while Salah’s fierce header six minutes into injury time was denied by substitute goalkeeper Alexander Selikhov’s quick reaction.
Spartak displayed a giant banner before the game that read “Win or Die,” but coach Massimo Carrera always seemed ready to settle for a draw. The fans and players celebrated the draw as if it were a victory.
With the Russian champion playing very deep with five defenders, Fernando’s goal was very much against the run of play. There were few other chances for the hosts, though full-back Andrei Yeshchenko forced a save from Loris Karius with a hard shot from the edge of the box in the second half.
Spartak had to play the last 25 minutes with second-choice goalkeeper Selikhov after Liverpool’s Salah collided with Rebrov when chasing a pass from Mane. Rebrov tried to play on but was soon stretchered off with an ice pack on his shin and his face grimaced with pain.
Spartak president Leonid Fedun told Russian media it “really looks like” Rebrov snapped a cruciate ligament in his knee. If confirmed, the injury could potentially rule him out for the season. Meanwhile, Spartak looks set for more UEFA punishment after its fans displayed a banner reading “UEFA mafia” and set off smoke bombs.
They were protesting UEFA’s decision to punish Spartak for a flare fired at the referee during the club’s previous Champions League fixture. Sevilla went clear at the top after beating Slovenian side Maribor 3-0 in Tuesday’s other Group E game.