Augsburg 0-0 Liverpool: Reds' lacklustre finishing leaves them needing to win in last 32 second-leg

A strong Liverpool side couldn't come away with a vital advantage, instead having to settle for a goalless stalemate away at FC Augsburg in the first-leg of their UEFA Europa League last 32 affair on Thursday.

Augsburg 0-0 Liverpool: Reds' lacklustre finishing leaves them needing to win in last 32 second-leg
(Picture: Getty Images)
FC Augsburg
0 0
Liverpool
FC Augsburg: Hitz, Verhaegh, Janker, Klavan, Stafylidis, Feulner, Werner (Ji Dong-Won, min. 80), Esswein, Kohr, Altintop (Koo, min. 86), Bobadilla (Caiuby, min. 22).
Liverpool : Mignolet, Clyne, Toure, Sakho, Moreno, Henderson, Can, Milner (Ibe, min. 80), Coutinho, Firmino, Sturridge (Origi, min. 67).
REFEREE: David Fernández Borbalán (ESP) - Yellows: Janker (min. 19) Kohr (min. 59) Werner (min. 72) Moreno (min. 76) Feulner (min. 90+1)
INCIDENTS: UEFA Europa League last 32 first-leg between FC Augsburg and Liverpool at the WWK Arena, in front of 26,000 spectators.

Liverpool were left frustrated as they failed to come away with an advantage, drawing 0-0 away at FC Augsburg in their Europa League last 32 first-leg on Thursday night.

Neither side could find the breakthrough in a turgid first-half, with Roberto Firmino and Alexander Esswein the two to go closest for either side - forcing good saves from the two goalkeepers.

Liverpool pushed for a goal to break the deadlock in the second-half, Daniel Sturridge wasting an excellent chance from James Milner's cross with Alberto Moreno also going close, after Paul Verhaegh had almost scored an own goal.

Having dug deep to keep it scoreless, substitute Ji Dong-Won almost hit Liverpool with a suckerpunch as his volley struck the outside of the post late on, but both sides are left needing just to win the well-poised second-leg to reach the final 16 of the competition.

Reds name strong starting eleven in Bavaria

Jürgen Klopp named an unchanged line-up, for the first time in his Anfield tenure, from the team which cruised past Aston Villa at the weekend, keeping Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sturridge in a strong front-three, with no game until the return leg in a week's time.

Sturridge was part of a strong Liverpool side but couldn't impact proceedings. (Picture: Getty Images)
Sturridge was part of a strong Liverpool side but couldn't impact proceedings. (Picture: Getty Images)

Augsburg meanwhile made six changes to the team that lost 3-1 at home to Bayern Munich on Sunday, with Halil Altintop and Esswein amongst those to return, supporting lone striker Raul Bobadilla

With the home side well up for a game geared as the biggest in their club's history by their own social media accounts, Liverpool were forced to sustain some early pressure on a chilly night in Bavaria, with Bobadilla drilling his shot down into the ground and over the crossbar after Mamadou Sakho couldn't clear well enough with a header. 

It was the visitors who had the first real chance of the game as the ball broke to Firmino from Markus Feulner's error and though the Brazilian squeezed past his man on the edge of the area, he could only scuff his shot, handing goalkeeper Marwin Hitz a comfortable save.

The Reds quickly took the sting out of their opponent's start as they settled and began to enjoy more of the ball, but they struggled to create openings against an exuberant and enthusiastic Augsburg side.

Sturridge had a flick-on from a corner after Emre Can's header, but despite taking a slight deflection - Hitz was again on hand to catch the ball comfortably.

Coutinho came close to fashioning another opportunity for his side, flicking the ball through to Sturridge inside the area but as he looked to finish, Ragnar Klavan slid in brilliantly to deflect the ball up off the striker and into Hitz's grasp.

Klopp angrily barks instructions at his players at the WWK Arena. (Picture: Getty Images)
Klopp angrily barks instructions at his players at the WWK Arena. (Picture: Getty Images)

Soon after, Die Fuggerstädter were dealt a huge blow as their top goalscorer Bobadilla, who scored six goals in the group stages alone and had scored against Liverpool back in 2012 for Young Boys, was forced with a hamstring injury he had appeared to sustain early on.

Augsburg go close to the opener late in the first-half

Frontman Sturridge looked frustrated at a lack of service and wasted a good opportunity with on-running teammates on either side of him, firing an ambitious 25-yard strike which deflected just wide - much to the dismay of his captain, Henderson.

With a lack of clear chances, the skipper's shot from James Milner's clever corner-kick routine was about the closest the Reds came to breaking the deadlock before half-time - although Augsburg asked a few questions of their defence in the final few minutes.

Esswein's pacey run down the right-hand side allowed him to get the better of Kolo Touré and after running in towards the near post and cutting back onto his left foot, Simon Mignolet was forced into a strong save to keep the scores level.

A frustrated Emre Can as Liverpool retreat to the changing rooms at half-time. (Picture: Getty Images)
A frustrated Emre Can as Liverpool retreat to the changing rooms at half-time. (Picture: Getty Images)

The Belgian was also asked to come and claim a number of crosses, most of which he dealt with easily, before dropping another - although he was quick to react and jump back onto it before any of the surrounding white shirts of Augsburg could react to poke it home.

Having been left raging on the sidelines many a time throughout the first 45 minutes, Klopp decided against any tactical or personnel changes at the interval and as such, little changed in the early moments of the second period.

The away side knitted together their best move of the game in the 52nd minute, as Coutinho dummied a pass for Moreno to collect high up the pitch on the left. He played a first-time ball straight into Coutinho, who could only flick his outside-of-the-boot effort wide of the near post.

They carved out an equally as promising opportunity just two minutes later, Milner getting into space down the right after linking up with Firmino and rolling an excellent ball across the six-yard box from the byline, but Sturridge couldn't apply the necessary finish.

Visitors left frustrated despite pushing hard for the breakthrough

The England international had another hopeful attempt soon after, cutting in onto his left foot and curling a shot towards the far post, although Hitz saved easily from his shot.

Liverpool continued to turn the screw in search of an opener and they almost earned one on the hour mark as Firmino's free-kick left the Augsburg defence at sixes and sevens. Touré missed his header and it flicked off of Cauiby and then off Verhaegh, who almost inadvertently turned it into his own goal, only for his goalkeeper to come to his rescue and dive down to collect.

Milner vents his frustrations as Augsburg held strong to deny Liverpool. (Picture: Getty Images)
Milner vents his frustrations as Augsburg held strong to deny Liverpool. (Picture: Getty Images)

Augsburg threatened to break occasionally, but rarely troubled Mignolet, although after Clyne's mistake - Klopp's side were fortunate to see Altintop as the only man to run onto a loose ball after a promising breakaway, with the veteran's lack of pace allowing the defence to recover and thwart the move.

Klopp opted to introduce some fresh legs in the form of Divock Origi with little over 20 minutes to go, as the Belgian came on to replace Sturridge up front.

Neither side can muster enough for a late winner

Liverpool continued to push for the breakthrough, with Moreno's fiercely-struck shot from distance forcing a good reaction save from Hitz after an awkward bounce, but the 'keeper got enough of a hand to the effort to tip it wide of the post.

Up the other end, Augsburg still retained some threat despite playing largely second-fiddle in the second-half - Cauiby almost directing Konstantinos Stafylidis' shot goalwards, after the full-back had ran on to a cross and struck a volley.

Both sides made late changes, Jordon Ibe coming on for the away side in place of Milner, but it wasn't enough to spur either side on for the decisive goal - Ji Dong-Won going closest as his effort hit the base of the post from inside the box after Ibe drilled a shot straight at Hitz.

Coutinho saw a trademark long-range shot deflected wide late on, after cutting inside onto his right foot, as both sides were left to settle for a goalless draw, leaving them with it all to do in the second-leg on Merseyside next week.