Philippe Coutinho’s brilliance was not enough to secure Liverpool’s first Champions League win since 2014 as Spartak Moscow earned a 1-1 draw.
Jurgen Klopp’s side dominated for much of Tuesday’s Group E contest at the Otkrytiye Arena, but had to settle for the point earned by Coutinho cancelling out Fernando’s effort.
Liverpool entered the fixture with added urgency following a disappointing home draw against Sevilla to open their campaign.
But they got off to a nightmare start as Fernando put the limited hosts ahead with a curling free-kick.
The visitors showed great resolve over the remainder of the first half and entered the break level thanks to Coutinho’s second goal in as many games.
Yet Spartak tightened up in the second period and Liverpool, back in the competition for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign, failed to find a winner.
Klopp’s team selection suggested he felt three points were a necessity, with an attacking line-up featuring a front four of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Coutinho.
For all those were expected to post the biggest threat, young full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was first to go close when volleying just wide following a one-two with Salah.
The visitors stepped on the gas thereafter as Mane sent in a cross for Firmino, whose fine header was parried away by Artyom Rebrov.
Despite their dominance, Klopp’s men fell behind midway through the half through a superb free-kick from Fernando.
The midfielder was afforded his chance when slack play from Emre Can preceded a rash challenge from Coutinho.
And he made Liverpool pay, curling home a delicious 20-yard effort – although Loris Karius, selected ahead of Simon Mignolet, will feel he should have done better.
They were behind for just seven minutes, though, as Coutinho atoned for his error by curling home following a fine one-two with Mane.
Up to his usual tricks. pic.twitter.com/MNxXtj3S8Y
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 26, 2017
Liverpool could have gone ahead just before the break, only for a thrilling four-on-two counter-attack to be thwarted by Mane drifting offside.
Picking up where they left off, Klopp’s team threatened quickly after the break when the lively Coutinho’s free-kick forced Rebrov into action.
But that proved the only real chance during the opening exchanges of the half as Spartak largely nullified their opponents’ threat.
They were dealt a blow in the 68th minute, however, as Rebrov was forced off after colliding with Salah.
Yet his departure did not noticeably alter the pattern of the game, with Klopp sending on Daniel Sturridge and Georginio Wijnaldum in search of inspiration.
Alexander-Arnold continued to look as likely as anybody, capping another fine run by hammering narrowly over.
Even better openings fell Sturridge’s way before the end, but the England man failed to control when six yards out and volleyed over from similar range soon after.
And the final confirmation it would not be Liverpool’s night came six minutes into injury time when Rebrov’s replacement, Alexander Selikhov, made a sublime one-handed save to keep out Salah’s bullet header.
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