The first leg of Liverpool’s Europa League last-32 tie with Augsburg ended 0-0 at the WWK Arena.
We might as well have skipped this game entirely and gone straight to Anfield next Thursday. The result is largely positive, but the spectacle failed to ignite any excitement into our campaign.
Jurgen Klopp’s frustrations were clear on the touchline as his return to Germany fell flat.
The team selection was the evidence we needed that Klopp is taking this competition seriously, but you would never have known this was the same side that walloped Aston Villa 6-0 on Sunday.
The energy was down from the first minute. Everything was done at half a pace. Daniel Sturridge, worryingly, looked to be holding back on his first back-to-back starts in 11 months.
Augsburg’s goalkeeper Marwin Hitz is supposed to be one of the best in the Bundesliga. We didn’t force him to prove that theory because we barely stretched him throughout the entire 90 minutes.
Roberto Firmino was gifted an early opening from a slack back-pass. The Brazilian got the ball stuck under his feet and could not generate any power behind a tame effort which dribbled into Hitz’s arms.
The game could have been a lot different had Christoph Janker seen red for his late lunge on Mamadou Sakho. He caught the Frenchman flush on the ankle with his studs, but only got a yellow card.
We were given a boost when Augsburg danger man Raul Bobadilla limped off injured. That reduced the threat of the Germans, and both sides were content to take on shots from long range.
Sturridge had a strike which deflected and bounced wide. Henderson hit one straight at Hitz. There was not a clear-cut chance until first-half stoppage time, and that came at the wrong end.
Alberto Moreno went walkabout as Augsburg broke down our left. Alexander Esswein was sent clear, but Simon Mignolet stood tall and made an important save after the opponent cut inside and shot.
We improved slightly in the second period, which started with a couple of decent opportunities. Coutinho – by miles our most dangerous attacker – turned a Moreno cross wide after a lovely move.
Sturridge had a couple of chances in quick succession, curling a shot which was comfortably held by Hitz shortly before his withdrawal after 68 more valuable, if not underwhelming, minutes.
Divock Origi was the Belgian chosen to replace him as Christian Benteke remained rooted to the bench.
The closest that we came to grabbing a vital away goal was through an Augsburg player. Paul Verhaegh nearly bundled the ball into his own net after a 59th-minute set-piece scramble.
It was disappointing that our strongest attacking lineup, one which we have been looking forward to fielding for most of the season, could not create many openings against Bundesliga strugglers.
The hosts were the side who nearly broke the deadlock late on when former Sunderland striker Ji Dong-won (remember that goal v Manchester City?!) hit the outside of the post with a half volley.
Evidence of the game’s nothingness is that notable highlights for the Reds were a solid performance from the spine, and some handy dead-ball deliveries from Moreno and James Milner.
Given the calibre of the opposition, we might not have to be that much better at Anfield in a fortnight’s time to go through, although a lack of away goal has put us in an unsteady position.
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