Liverpool top group after uninspiring draw in Switzerland

Reds emerge unscathed on injury front; Celtic also earn point in final game

 Liverpool’s Emre Can in action against   Sion’s Edimilson Fernandes during the Uefa Europa League match at the Tourbillon stadium. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA

Liverpool’s Emre Can in action against Sion’s Edimilson Fernandes during the Uefa Europa League match at the Tourbillon stadium. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA

 

Sion 0 Liverpool 0

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.

Fenerbahce 1 Celtic 1

A Kris Commons equalising header helped Celtic regain some pride in their doomed Europa League campaign against Fenerbahce at the Sukru Saracoglu stadium but once again the Hoops were scarred by another self-inflicted wound in a 1-1 draw.

The Parkhead club had travelled to Turkey for the first time guaranteed to finish bottom of Group A after taking just two points from five fixtures.

The Scottish champions had held their own in the first half with striker Nadir Ciftci missing a good chance but a howler in the 39th minute by goalkeeper Craig Gordon allowed winger Lazar Markovic to score.

An Efe Ambrose mistake just before the break when the two sides met at Parkhead in October led to the Hoops surrendering a two-goal lead.

But this game changed in the 67th minute when Fenerbahce midfielder Diego, booked early in the first-half after an altercation with Hoops midfielder Stefan Johansen, was shown a straight red by Belgian referee Serge Gumienny for a kick at the Norwegian.

Moments after replacing Scott Allan in the 73rd minute, Commons headed in a Mikael Lustig cross for the point which takes Fenerbahce into the knockout stages with Molde and offered some hope next season for Celtic.

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