Moscow (AFP) – A sparkling Philippe Coutinho goal was not enough to earn Liverpool victory as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Spartak Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Coutinho cancelled out Fernando’s free-kick in the 31st minute, but Liverpool’s quest for a winner came to nothing, leaving them still without a win after two games in Group E.
Liverpool have now gone seven matches without victory in the Champions League — their longest such run in the competition — and trail group leaders Sevilla by two points.
The five-time champions paid the price for some wasteful finishing, substitute Daniel Sturridge and Mohamed Salah both spurning good chances to secure victory in the closing stages.
On the plus side, Jurgen Klopp’s men looked more solid defensively than in recent weeks, but Fernando’s goal raised questions about Klopp’s decision to bring goalkeeper Loris Karius into the team in place of Simon Mignolet.
While Russian champions Spartak have gone nine games without victory in the Champions League, this was a result to warm the hearts of their vocal fans on a chilly night at Otkrytiye Arena.
From a Liverpool perspective, the match was notable for the fact Coutinho started alongside Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for the first time.
With their ‘Fab Four’ on the pitch, the visitors settled quickly and twice went close to taking the lead.
Trent Alexander-Arnold volleyed wide from Salah’s lay-off and Firmino drew an agile save from Artem Rebrov with a forceful header.
But Coutinho’s first telling intervention was to give away the free-kick that led to Spartak’s 23rd-minute opener.
– Rebrov injured –
The Brazilian came through the back of Aleksandr Samedov and his compatriot Fernando swept the set-piece past a flat-footed Karius from 25 yards.
Liverpool have kept only two clean sheets in their 11 games to date this season.
Thankfully for Liverpool, Coutinho had the good grace to atone, a sudden burst of energy seeing him swap passes with Mane on the left before placing a shot into the roof of Rebrov’s net.
Coutinho has scored in successive games since being brought back into the team following his unsuccessful attempt to engineer a move to Barcelona.
Liverpool twice squandered chances to go ahead before the break, Firmino miscuing from Jordan Henderson’s cross and then a 4 v 2 situation breaking down when Mane strayed offside.
Coutinho worked Rebrov with a free-kick early in the second half, but even after the Spartak goalkeeper was forced off by injury, with Aleksandr Selikhov replacing him, the visitors could not find a path to goal.
Andrei Eschenko served a reminder of Spartak’s threat with a drilled effort that Karius boxed away.
Klopp added Sturridge and Georginio Wijnaldum to the mix and saw teenage full-back Alexander-Arnold thrash wide with his left foot after cutting in from the right.
His side procured two golden opportunities to snatch victory at the death, but Sturridge slashed a volley over from Henderson’s cross and Salah could not beat Selikhov with a header from Alexander-Arnold’s cross.