Liverpool were left stranded despite having more shots at goal, against Spartak Moscow in their Champions League Group Stage match.
A 1-1 against Spartak Moscow cannot go down as a bad result for Liverpool, but the wins need to start coming soon and they will wonder how they did not produce one here. Philippe Coutinho swiftly cancelled Fernando’s first-half strike in a game of two fine goals, but the disappointment will be that they did not push on against opponents who looked there for the taking. In the end, a glaring late miss from the substitute Daniel Sturridge was the crowning frustration on a night of spurned chances that may yet prove costly in the long run.
Fernando’s marvelous opener came against the run of play, with the evening already looking like an exercise in patience for Liverpool. Spartak, seemingly low in confidence and missing a number of key players through injury, began with a deep defensive block and sought to deny the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah room to run in behind. The ploy worked up to a point although Salah twice found pockets of space in the opening 17 minutes before Artem Rebrov saved Spartak with a wonderful one-handed save from Roberto Firmino’s free header.
Liverpool’s pressure appeared to be cranking up a few gears, but midway through the half, from Spartak’s first attack of note, their task was made harder. Fernando had plenty of work to do after Coutinho had conceded a free-kick 25 yards out but his whipped, dipping set-piece was stunning and flew past Loris Karius.
The goal emboldened Spartak, but Liverpool hit back within eight minutes. It was a slick equaliser from Coutinho, exchanging passes with Mane and bursting through on the left side of the area before a cool finish; the timing seemed crucial. Liverpool should have been in front before the break but wasted a five-on-two counter from Spartak’s first corner.
At least Jurgen Klopp’s side were finding openings. Rebrov got down low to parry a Coutinho free-kick early in the second half before, almost immediately, Karius had to parry away an Andrei Eschenko drive. Spartak had come out in slightly more assertive fashion but they were dealt a blow when Rebrov, hurt when diving at Salah’s feet, had to be replaced by Aleksandr Selikhov. Salah appeared to have been tripped during the move but no penalty was awarded; moments later, the new goalkeeper’s first contribution was to acrobatically punch away a loose ball with Salah looking to burst clear again.
Selikhov bravely denied Sturridge with four minutes left and then, with the clock ticking down, the striker volleyed over from close range with arguably Liverpool’s best chance of the night. Towards the end of eight minutes’ added time, Selikhov excelled further, brilliantly repelling a Salah header from six yards out. In the end, time will tell whether this was a useful away draw gained for Liverpool or two valuable points dropped.