Jurgen Klopp decided to rest a few key players, such as Coutinho, Martin Skrtel, Lucas Leiva and Adam Lallana against Rubin Kazan on Thursday night.
He still started Christian Benteke because he needs to build his match fitness after being out for a month, and only made a few substitute appearances recently. Roberto Firmino gained another rare start.
Early on, James Milner hit the post from close on, though it was a tight angle. Then Firmino fed Benteke who struck it wide but it wasn’t close enough. Kazan did well to stifle Liverpool at Anfield with numbers at the back and they used the same tactic at home in Russia.
The first half was all about pressing and there was little in the way of creativity. The only other meaningful attempt at goal was when Jordon Ibe’s 45th minute shot was deflected awkwardly toward goal, only for the home side keeper Sergej Ryzikov to pull it away from the line, otherwise it would’ve been an unexpected goal for Liverpool.
After the break Ibe used his speed to cut through the Russian’s space, before hitting a sweet shot that went in off the post, and that made the difference on the night. After that the Reds got much more space as expected. However Liverpool didn’t place them to the sword and Klopp removed James Milner for Adam Lallana.
Milner has now been replaced for two games in a row and he’d be concerned. He had a desired central role under Brendan Rodgers, but Klopp plays him as an attacking midfielder, the same way he was utilised at Manchester City. Though, he hasn’t been creative enough.
Ibe could’ve made it 2-0 thereafter but his shot was blocked by the home keeper, and the Nigerian’s confidence started to grow.
With about 12 minutes to go Benteke and Firmino could’ve passed it into the net if they combined, but the Belgian attempted an overhead kick that went straight to the keeper.
Liverpool looked much more organised and compact in defense, giving them a chance to do well in Cups. They held out very well and are in a good position to progress to the last 36.