Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield debut ended in a frustrating draw against 10-man Rubin Kazan as Liverpool registered their third successive 1-1 Europa League draw. With all the focus still on the new manager it was Liverpool’s other, somewhat forgotten, German, Emre Can, who delivered with an equalizer just before half-time to cancel out Marko Devic’s surprise opener. Their numerical advantage — Oleg Kuzmin was sent off for a second bookable offense in the 37th minute — should have produced a winner, but for all the new-found positivity, even a manager as accomplished as Klopp will take time to correct endemic failings.
His side did have a greater air of confidence about them, and the watching principal owner, John Henry, making a rare trans-Atlantic trip, will not be alone in hoping that will soon translate into results.
There was a noticeable difference in approach at least in terms of team selection, however, as Klopp made just one change from the side which drew at Tottenham on Saturday. It was exactly a year since Liverpool lost 3-0 at home to Real Madrid in the Champions League, but just five of that line-up started against the Russians, placed 12th in a league of 16.
Can came on as a substitute that day, but the midfielder, shunted around by Klopp’s predecessor Brendan Rodgers, has been restored to his natural home in midfield, even if he did not look entirely comfortable on the left of a midfield three. Kazan’s goal emanated from his area of the pitch as right back Olek Kuzmin’s cross-field ball picked out Devic, who controlled on his chest before poking high past Simon Mignolet.
However, Can had a significant hand in winning the free kick which led to the equalizer, effectively buying a foul off Kuzmin which resulted in the Rubin captain’s second yellow card in the 37th minute. The German then anticipated perfectly as Philippe Coutinho’s set-piece came off Blagoy Georgiev, pouncing to convert from close range.
Klopp celebrated the first goal of his reign with arms outstretched, Messiah-like, before turning to the Main Stand and punching the air.
It was virtually one-way traffic against the 10 men after the break but Nathaniel Clyne’s dithering cost the hosts the chance of a second when slipped in by James Milner.
The 63rd-minute arrival of Christian Benteke for his first appearance in a month gave Liverpool more presence up front as it was playmaker Coutinho and not striker Origi who made way. Benteke should have marked his return with a goal but volleyed over Clyne’s cross and then hit the post with a first-time shot 10 minutes from time.
Liverpool lay siege to Rubin’s goal late on — aside from one Igor Portnyagin free-header which flew fortuitously wide — without success. Old habits, it seems, die hard.