|Liverpool’s goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, made a series of important saves to prevent Utrecht taking the lead [Reuters]|
Liverpool’s stuttering form continued in the Europa League on Thursday, with the northern English side playing out a uninspiring 0-0 draw with Dutch rivals Utrecht in the Netherlands.
The disjointed Liverpool display saw the five-time European champions relying heavily on goalkeeper Pepe Reina to avoid defeat as Utrecht prevented their opponants from creating chances.
With Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, missing, the Reds lacked creativity in midfield, and could have gone behind when Utrecht put the ball in the net only for the referee to disallow the goal for a foul.
“Utrecht did well, they were determined, aggressive and committed, so we knew we had to be at our best defensively to keep them out and fortunately we did,” said Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool manager.
If the first Group K game was a turgid affair, the other, between Napoli and Steaua Bucharest was the opposite, with the Italians scoring a injury equaliser to complete a three goal comeback and draw the match 3-3.
There were also six goals in the Group G meeting between Zenit St. Petersburg and AEK Athens, which the Russian side won 4-2 against managerless visitors.
Manchester City came from behind at home to deny Juventus a first win in Group A, with Adam Johnson’s first half equaliser cancelling out Juve’s early lead.
Anderlecht are bottom after being condemned to a second successive loss, as Ante Vukusic struck deep into stoppage time to secure Hadjuk Split’s 1-0 win.
Villarreal, who are second in the Spanish league, got off the mark in Europe with a 2-1 victory over 10-man Club Brugge having lost to Dinamo Zagreb in the Group D opener. Zagreb went down 1-0 at Thessaloniki on Thursday.
PSG remain top of the toughest group, with Christophe Jallet’s 30-meter strike and Brazilian playmaker Nene’s sixth goal in his last six matches securing a 2-0 victory over Karpaty Lviv. Sevilla earned their first points of Group J by beating 10-man Borussia Dortmund 1-0.
Porto are ahead of Besiktas on goal difference in Group L after beating CSKA Sofia 1-0. Besiktas came from behind to beat Rapid Vienna 2-1.
Sporting Lisbon stayed top of Group C by thrashing second-place Levski Sofia 5-0, while Lille drew 1-1 at Ghent. Borisov moved to the top of Group E with a 4-1 rout of struggling Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, while FC Sheriff are second after beating Dynamo Kiev 2-0.
In Group H, goals from Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Martin Harnik gave Christian Gross’ Stuttgart a lift by securing the victory over bottom-place Odense, while David Degen’s double gave Young Boys a 2-0 win over Getafe.
Group F leader CSKA Moscow relied on three second-half goals to beat Sparta Prague 3-0, while Palermo beat Lausanne Sports 1-0 in the other match.