Even on a night that didn’t mean much, Midtjylland’s home draw against Liverpool managed to deliver some markers and a major talking point.
The Danish champions were already destined to finish bottom of Champions League Group D ahead of kick off on Wednesday night, while Jurgen Klopp’s men had secured their passage to the knockout stages as its winners.
Mohamed Salah, whose selection in the XI perplexed many given Liverpool’s lengthy injury list and stacked schedule, had something personal to play for. And it took him just 55 seconds to complete his mission, ousting Steven Gerrard as the club’s all-time leading scorer in Europe’s elite competition with 22 goals.
Trent Alexander-Arnold returned from injury and wore the captain’s armband for the first time.
Teenage midfielder Leighton Clarkson was handed his Champions League bow and turned in a fine showing in then centre of the park, while substitute Billy Koumetio became the youngest player to represent the Merseysiders in the European Cup aged 18 years 25 days.
Klopp had made eight changes from the side that decimated Wolves 4-0 on Sunday, but Liverpool took the lead and were only truly troubled in the the second half.
Midtjylland deserved to be rewarded for their probing, but it arrived in strange circumstances.
Anders Dreyer collected a ball from deep and got in behind the Liverpool defence, with goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher rushing out and fouled him.
The Dane had managed to direct the ball goalwards, but the flag went up for offside as Clarkson cleared off the line.
A VAR check seemed to discount the official’s finding with referee Francois Letexier going to the pitchside monitor before awarding a penalty and issuing Kelleher with a yellow card.
Alexander Scholz blasted into the bottom right-hand corner giving the keeper no chance to save the spot-kick and Midtjylland pushed hard for a winner.
There was another confusing VAR check as the home scorer had the ball in the back of the net again, but after a lengthy pause it was ruled out for offside.
If there wasn’t already enough head-scratching moments in the dead rubber, what would have been a Liverpool winner for Takumi Minamino was also chalked off after a check.
Substitute Sadio Mane was penalised for heading the ball onto his own hand in the build-up, but it looked to have come off the defender’s arm.
And so it ended all even, with frustration at the use of VAR still managing to muddle a match that had nothing riding on it.
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