Jordon Ibe scored his first goal for Liverpool to give Jurgen Klopp’s men a 1-0 win at Rubin Kazan that significantly boosts hopes of reaching the Europa League knockout stages.
The visitors were completely dominant in Russia and saw chances go begging, including James Milner hitting the woodwork, meaning winger Ibe’s strike early in the second half proved decisive.
The victory is Liverpool’s first in the competition this season after three consecutive 1-1 draws, but there is still work to do to reach the last 32, although a win over Bordeaux in their next game at Anfield later this month will seal progression after they drew 1-1 with Sion in Group B’s other game on Thursday.
Rubin, meanwhile, are now detached at the bottom of the table after they failed to register a single shot on target in the match.
Liverpool made four changes to the team that beat Premier League champions Chelsea on Saturday as Christian Benteke started his first game since September. Dejan Lovren, Joe Allen and Ibe also came into the line-up.
Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana dropped to the substitutes’ bench with what Klopp described as minor injuries, while Martin Skrtel and Lucas Leiva also stepped aside.
Liverpool made a bright start and only the crossbar denied Milner from a tight angle after the captain had been set up by an excellent piece of individual play from Roberto Firmino.
Benteke and Firmino were both narrowly off-target with right-footed efforts, although the visitors’ creativity did decrease as the first half progressed, despite dominating possession
Liverpool did come close to scoring in the final seconds before half-time when Ibe’s cross-shot was headed towards his own goal by Saba Kvirkvelia, with the defender relieved to see Sergei Ryzhikov make an acrobatic save at the second attempt.
Alberto Moreno lashed a shot against the side netting as Klopp’s men started strongly in the second half before making the breakthrough after 52 minutes.
Firmino flicked a pass into the path of Ibe, who dribbled towards the edge of the box and placed an excellent shot in off the inside of the post.
Emre Can was annoyed not to be awarded a penalty after being clipped on the back of his leg by Ruslan Kambolov inside the area, but may have paid the price for a delayed reaction to the challenge.
Ryzhikov only just managed to grab Lovren’s header after being initially unsighted from Ibe’s corner and Can warmed the goalkeeper’s hands with another effort as Liverpool stayed firmly on top.
Ibe should have had a second after a swift Liverpool counterattack ended with him being played in by substitute Lallana, but this time his effort was poor and straight at Ryzhikov.
Rubin struggled to provide any kind of attacking threat and Kambolov’s poor late free-kick typified their performance, as Liverpool held on more comfortably than the scoreline suggests.