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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Klopp happy to leave unscathed

Liverpool top Europa group after dull Swiss stalemate

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp on the sideline in Switzerland last night
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp on the sideline in Switzerland last night
FC Sion’s Geoffrey Mujangi Bia (left) in action against Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was grateful to leave Sion unscathed after a difficult night on a tricky pitch in Switzerland.

A dismal goalless draw secured top spot on a semi-frozen pitch in a group they had already qualified from and made it four draws and two wins in Europe this season.

While satisfied at ensuring, in theory, a more favourable draw for the knockout stages Klopp was happier to be able to take his side home without the complication of further injuries.

"It was difficult; the ground was very difficult to play and for both teams the first thing to do was show you were prepared for a game like this and that is what my team did," he said.

"It was not our best football and although it is an outdoor sport frozen ground is for other sports.

"Of course in each tournament at this level there should be heating for the ground - that is not good [there was none] - but now we have played here and if we come here again it will maybe be April and I hope it will not be that cold.

"We saw the pitch and we knew what can happen on a pitch like this but as a professional footballer and especially as a manager you cannot talk about the pitch.

"You have to ignore it, try to take it and use it and the only thing that helps in a situation like this is concentration: if you are really ready and prepared and concentrated then usually nothing happens.

"I am really satisfied, no-one is injured and they were very focused and concentrated on the game."

When Klopp took over in mid-October the club had two points from their opening two matches and looked in danger of failing to get out of the group but they did that with a match to spare and now await their fate in Monday's draw.

"We wanted to be first after this game and that is what we did," the German said.

"A few weeks ago it was far away from us that we could reach this place but we did it and it is really good.

"We will see how important it (first place) is - there are a lot of good teams in second place and also teams from the Champions League.

"Everyone will have to change their mind about this tournament now as everyone will see it is something like a small Champions League."

Sion coach Didier Tholot was happy to have also progressed to the knockout stage and made no excuses for the bore draw.

"We deserve this result. We know Liverpool are very offensive and had a couple of dangerous situations but we did not have to rely on our goalkeeper," he said.

"What we did was a real victory and we are very proud."

Klopp had spoken before the game of the need to create rhythm but this was a performance so staccato and out of tune it is difficult to see what how the players benefited at all.

The German made six changes from Sunday's defeat at Newcastle but even with the inclusion of 21-year-old left-back Brad Smith, making his first start, still fielded a side of 11 full internationals.

Smith's energy and enthusiasm to get forward meant his flank was Liverpool's most profitable in the first half but, for all the youngster's endeavour, what could just about be described as their only chance saw Divock Origi, preferred up front to Belgium team-mate Christian Benteke, fire a left-to-right shot wide of the far post.

The match did see the arrival of playmaker Philippe Coutinho for Milner on the hour for his first appearance in four matches after a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, Erik Lamala struck a hat-trick as Tottenham beat Monaco 4-1 to ease into the last 32 of the competition, topping their group in the process.

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