Liverpool’s stuttering season yielded another forgettable performance on Thursday when the English giants were held to a 0-0 draw at Dutch side FC Utrecht in the Europa League.
Roy Hodgson’s side came close to conceding on numerous occasions, with Jan Wuytens seeing a first-half effort chalked off for a foul and Dries Mertens drawing a sharp save from Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina in the 39th minute.
Liverpool were lucky to escape early in the second period when Raul Meireles had to head off the line from skipper Michael Silberbauer after Reina came for the ball at a corner and missed.
Fernando Torres produced another subdued performance and was denied by home keeper Michel Vorm after being teed up by Utrecht old boy Dirk Kuyt.
Jacob Mulenga spurned a late sight of goal for the hosts, poking across goal and fractionally wide after exploiting hesitancy from Reds left-back Martin Kelly.
In the group’s other game, Napoli hit back from conceding three goals in the first 16 minutes at Steaua Bucharest to snatch a 3-3 draw, with Uruguayan Edinson Cavani notching the equaliser in the eighth minute of added time.
The results mean Liverpool top Group K and have a two-point lead over Napoli and Utrecht.
Napoli’s fellow Serie A representatives Sampdoria won 1-0 at home to Hungarian side Debrecen in Group I, thanks to an 18th-minute penalty by Giampaolo Pazzini.
Sampdoria share the lead in the group with PSV Eindhoven, who won 2-0 at Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv.
Gregorio Manzano’s first game in charge of Sevilla saw his new charges win 1-0 at in-form Borussia Dortmund in Group J.
A goal in first-half injury-time from on-loan Napoli midfielder Luca Cigarini was the difference between the teams, while Marcel Schmelzer was dismissed for the German side after being shown a second yellow card for diving.
Paris Saint-Germain top the group after a 2-0 win at home to Karpaty Lviv gave them six points from a possible six.
Later on Thursday, big-spending Manchester City will look to enhance their credentials as a new power in the European game when they host Juventus in Group A, while defending champions Atletico Madrid tackle Bayer Leverkusen.
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