Liverpool draw a blank in Prague

Sparta Prague 0 Liverpool 0

Kenny Dalglish waited 9,394 days to get the chance to manage Liverpool in Europe but after a turgid Europa League goalless draw against Sparta Prague he must have wondered why he looked forward to it so much.

The 59-year-old missed out on continental competition in his first spell as Reds boss because of the ban on English clubs after the Heysel disaster.

Despite the significance of his debut, this last-32 first-leg match in the Czech Republic is unlikely to live long in Dalglish's or anyone else's memory.

Goalkeeper Jose Reina was Liverpool's best - and busiest - player with a few good saves, but even then he was not severely tested.

The visitors' play was disjointed and lacked a cutting edge but crucially they kept a clean sheet and Dalglish will be hopeful next week's home leg, when captain Steven Gerrard should be available after a groin problem, will provide greater satisfaction.

In the biting cold of the Generali Arena the game never really got going and although Liverpool tried to gain control by holding on to possession they never managed to make any ground by doing so.

In fact, it was Sparta who created the few chances, most of which were created from wide positions as full-backs Ondrej Kusnir, on the right, and the particularly effective Manuel Pamic advanced at regular intervals.

That was in contrast to Liverpool's two wide defenders, with Glen Johnson, back in his more familiar right-sided role, and Danny Wilson, a centre-back playing on the left, rarely getting the opportunity to go forward.

Pamic gave Johnson problems in the first half and almost capitalised to great effect in the 17th minute.

Martin Abena slid a pass inside the England defender and Pamic raced into the penalty area to drill a low shot from a narrow angle which Reina parried to safety.

Even the normally unflappable Spain international was not immune to the general untidiness which littered Liverpool's play and when he could only parry Kusnir's deep cross into the path of Pamic he was relived to see the defender blaze over with his weaker right foot.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos was next to the Reds' rescue, putting in a diving block to halt former Reading midfielder Marek Matejovsky's shot as it travelled goalwards.

With a lack of central midfielders, having left Gerrard and expectant father Christian Poulsen at home, the last thing Dalglish needed was to see Fabio Aurelio forced off with an injury in the first half.

It prompted a reshuffle with Raul Meireles withdrawn from his advanced role, from where he had scored five goals in six previous matches, to allow Joe Cole to come on.

The second half was little different from what had gone before except for Liverpool enjoying slightly more possession.

But the successful passing game which had been so evident in their six-match unbeaten Barclays Premier League run never really got going.

Sparta continued to pose the greater threat, however, and Leony Kweuke headed just wide from range on the hour.

Liverpool's best chance came with 20 minutes to go when Lucas Leiva's lofted pass picked out Johnson on the right of the penalty area.

He weaved inside but instead of shooting with his left foot - with which he has scored some screamers from range - he opted for the outside of his right and poked the ball past the far post.

The match was held up for a couple of minutes after a flare let off by Sparta fans behind Reina's goal clouded the pitch in thick smoke and there would have been few complaints had it blanked out the rest of the game.

When play did resume Reina had to be alert to stop Kweuke's shot on the turn from a corner, while Matejovsky's 25-yard effort curled just wide of the goalkeeper's right-hand post.

Dalglish switched to a back three for the last six minutes, with Slovakian Martin Skrtel receiving a predictably hostile welcome from the Czech crowd when he replaced Ngog.

Kamil Vacek almost snatched a winner with a long-range strike which whistled past the upright but Liverpool held on for a clean sheet which makes life slightly easier for them in a week's time.

News
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Homer’s equation, in an episode in 1998, comes close to the truth, as revealed 14 years later
science
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003