Liverpool’s kids couldn’t escape the shadow of the Reds’ recent history and performances in Europe through youthful exuberance alone.
Liverpool played Bordeaux to a 1-1 draw Thursday at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux in the teams’ opening game of the UEFA Europa League group stage. Adam Lallana’s well-taken goal gave Liverpool the lead in the second half, but the host tied the game in the closing stages through Jussie to recover a shared point in Group B. Sion’s win over Rubin Kazan in the other Group B game means both Liverpool and Bordeaux sit second with one point apiece.
Brendan Rodgers fielded a largely second-string team, in which just four of the starting 11 players were aged 25 or older, and rested several regulars with an eye on Sunday’s Premier League game against Norwich City. The second-string Reds’ performance was below average, as one would expect from a weakened team, and the result should satisfy Rodgers and his players given what transpired over the course of 90 minutes.
Coming off back-to-back Premier League losses, Rodgers deployed his charges in a new-look, 3-4-2-1 formation in an effort to play Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho, who returned from injury and suspension, respectively, in their preferred positions in the attacking midfield and spark Liverpool’s offense to life.
Liverpool’s break from a four-back setup was temporary and ineffective. The Reds created little more than speculative efforts in the first half, with Coutinho’s rocket off the post standing as their best chance before the break.
Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet’s collision with Kolo Toure in the 14th minute left the Ivorian in insurmountable pain. Rodgers replaced the veteran defender with midfielder Pedro Chirivella, 18, after 27 minutes and moved Emre Can from the midfield to right back. The Reds proceeded according to the plans of bygone weeks.
Bordeaux created the best chances in both halves, but its wayward shooting and Mignolet, who was playing in his 100th game for the club, kept it at bay. Forward Diego Rolan and midfielders Wahbi Khazri and Henri Saivet constantly threatened. Mignolet answered the call almost every time.
The game looked like it might peter out without goal or major incident until Lallana produced a moment of genuine quality in the 66th minute where none existed before. Lallana left Pablo in his wake before beating goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso with a fine finish.
Lallana’s unexpected goal boosted Liverpool, but the Reds couldn’t double their lead when Carrasso denied substitute Danny Ings from scoring a goal similar to Lallana’s.
Rodgers and Coutinho called on Liverpool to “stay calm” amid their recent downturn in form. Liverpool did just that for most of the game but gave way late in the second half at a moment when it had five teenagers and just three players over age 25 on the field.
Jussie, a second-half substitute, tied the game in the 81st minute, giving Bordeaux a goal it deserved for its previous dominance but probably didn’t merit at that moment in time. Nevertheless, the Brazilian midfielder pounced on a failed clearance and beat Mignolet from close range.
Liverpool’s inability to see out the game is disappointing but falls in line with their showings in recent the UEFA Champions League and Europa League campaigns.
Liverpool has topped the group in its previous two Europa League campaigns. Reds young and old are in position to repeat the feat after the draw in France.
Thumbnail photo via Bob Edme/The Associated Press