Liverpool top Europa League group with dreary draw against Sion

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Liverpool claimed the point they needed to top their Europa League group with an uninspiring goalless draw in Sion.

Having already qualified for the knockout stages there was little to aim for and far more to avoid - injury being the main concern on a pitch which appeared part frozen - but everyone emerged unscathed to add a fourth draw to their two wins in six matches unbeaten in Europe.

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp had spoken before the game of the need to create rhythm but this was a performance so staccato and out of tune it is difficult to see what how the players benefited at all.

The German made six changes from Sunday's defeat at Newcastle but even with the inclusion of 21-year-old left-back Brad Smith, making his first start, still fielded a side of 11 full internationals, even though they lacked cohesion and fluency.

Smith's energy and enthusiasm to get forward meant his flank was Liverpool's most profitable in the first half but, for all the youngster's endeavour, what could just about be described as their only chance saw Divock Origi, preferred up front to Belgium team-mate Christian Benteke, fire a left-to-right shot wide of the far post.

Origi was also dispossessed by Elsad Zverotic just as he was about to pull the trigger in a rare piece of action inside the penalty area.

There seemed little intent or purpose to Liverpool's approach, with aimless passes often punted forward towards Origi and players seemingly keen to offload the ball on a tricky pitch.

Sion, needing only a point to qualify for the knockout stage, were not particularly ambitious themselves, but their best effort saw Edimilson Fernandes, who easily turned Kolo Toure, shoot wide having charged into space behind the centre-back.

Ebenezer Assifuah, having been booked for a late challenge on Emre Can, was lucky to escape dismissal for clattering into James Milner moments later and for a brief period the game had something resembling a competitive edge, with Smith earning a talking to for a couple of robust challenges but half-time restored the game to its previous state of torpor.

The arrival of playmaker Philippe Coutinho for Milner on the hour for his first appearance in four matches after a hamstring injury offered some hope of an increased goal threat, but the fingertips of Andris Vanins prevented Origi rounding the Sion goalkeeper from Can's pass.

Sion gave it more of a go in the final 10 minutes but they were more than happy with the draw to take them through.


"Excellent first half from @bradsmith_94 if that doesn't give him confidence nothing will" - Former Liverpool defender Rob Jones (@RobjonesLFC2) praised youngster Brad Smith's first-half performance.



Simon Mignolet: 6

Nathaniel Clyne: 6

Kolo Toure: 5

Dejan Lovren: 6

Brad Smith: 7

Emre Can: 6

James Milner: 6

Jordan Henderson: 6

Adam Lallana: 6

Roberto Firmino: 4

Divock Origi: 5


Jordan Rossiter (on for Henderson, 76): 6

Philippe Coutinho (on for Milner, 59): 6

Cameron Brannagan (on for Firmino, 89): 5


Brad Smith - the 21-year-old left-back made his first start after a couple of substitute appearances almost two years apart and was the most impressive player on show in the first half, offering Liverpool a wide option in the attacking third as well as defending competently.


The final whistle.


Whether it was the freezing temperature or the sheer dullness of the game but even Jurgen Klopp was not his usually animated self. The substitutions he made seemed to have one eye on the weekend as he kept Roberto Firmino on until the 89th minute despite the Brazilian being anonymous throughout.


The dullness of it all. Liverpool needed a point to top the group, Sion needed a draw to qualify. The result was not so much a cancelling out of each other as a non-competitive stalemate.


Liverpool v West Brom (Premier League, Sunday December 13)


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