Jurgen Klopp endured a frustrating return to Germany as Liverpool survived a late scare to draw 0-0 with Augsburg in the first leg of their last-32 Europa League tie at the WWK Arena on Thursday.
Making his first appearance in a German dugout since joining Liverpool in October, the former Borussia Dortmund and Mainz boss witnessed his side toil in front of goal and was fortunate to avoid defeat as Augsburg substitute Ji Dong-won hit the post in the 86th minute with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet well beaten.
Augsburg saw Raul Bobadilla – joint top-scorer in the competition before kick-off – hobble off midway through the first half, although the hosts should have led through Alexander Esswein just before half-time.
Fresh from their 6-0 rout of Aston Villa at the weekend, Liverpool eventually found their groove after the break, but Daniel Sturridge spurned their best chance before the hour.
Despite Ji’s late miss, Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl will be content to have denied Liverpool an away goal ahead of their trip to Anfield in seven days’ time, while Klopp’s men remain unbeaten in the competition this season.
Liverpool were unchanged for the first time in Klopp’s tenure following the thrashing of Villa, while Weinzierl welcomed back Tobias Werner from a hip problem sustained in November.
A misplaced pass from Markus Feulner saw former Hoffenheim playmaker Roberto Firmino direct the first effort of the game straight at Marwin Hitz before a last-gasp Ragnar Klavan tackle denied Sturridge a one-on-one.
Augsburg’s slow start was not helped when Bobadilla limped off with a hamstring problem 22 minutes in.
However, the hosts gradually grew into the game without the Argentinian and should have led on the stroke of half-time when Esswein fired straight at Mignolet after a quick break down the right.
Liverpool started the second half brightly, Philippe Coutinho making his first contribution of the game when he clipped Alberto Moreno’s cutback wide.
Sturridge wasted a golden opportunity to put Liverpool in front before the hour when he sidefooted wide from close range prior to the hour mark following clever play down the right from Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner.
As the game livened up, Liverpool piled on pressure and saw Sturridge test Hitz from distance, while Konstantinos Stafylidis cut out a dangerous Clyne delivery.
Augsburg captain Paul Verhaegh almost turned into his own net after an inswinging Jordan Henderson delivery before the hosts failed to make the most of a loose Clyne pass, Halil Altintop eventually being crowded out as he was unable to set Werner free down the left.
Moreno and Caiuby had good chances in the final stages before Ji was nearly the hero when he struck the post late on after unleashing a first-time shot around 12 yards out, the former Sunderland man almost making a low-key display worse for Klopp’s men ahead of the second leg next week.
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