FC Sion 0
With a daunting December and January on the horizon, many saw tonight's Europa League clash as the last opportunity for Jürgen Klopp to rest players. Although Klopp has taken this competition more seriously than his predecessor, he still chose to leave several big names back on Merseyside, including Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen, Jordan Ibe, and Alberto Moreno. As such, we knew it would be a heavily-rotated side before the line-up was even announced.
All told, Klopp made six changes from Sunday's disappointing starting XI. Only James Milner remained in midfield, with captain Jordan Henderson making his first start under Klopp, and Emre Can returning from suspension. Divock Origi was supported by Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana in the attack. And the defense was a mixture of young and old, with veteran Kolo Toure coming in for Martin Skrtel and Brad Smith getting the start for Alberto Moreno.
Liverpool created a few half-chances early, with Origi and Firmino both attempting shots from outside the box. Origi also made a couple of decent runs inside the box, including one to the back post where he just couldn't make decent contact with Brad Smith's cross to send the ball in toward goal.
On the other end, Smith was filling in nicely, and held his own defensively. He also managed to get forward a few times to stretch play and put in a couple of decent crosses, one leading to Liverpool's solitary corner of the night. Can played the deepest of the midfielders, and deputized well for Lucas. Sion rarely looked threatening with the ball. Instead, their best chances would come from set pieces [insert Alexi Lalas joke here], with the Swiss side getting far more opportunities to whip the ball into the box from free kicks and corners. Thankfully, Liverpool's set piece defending was unusually calamity free throughout the night.
The first half ended with a bit of scrappy play and rough fouls from both sides. Sion's striker Assifuah was lucky to stay on the pitch after a late aerial challenge on Milner after just being shown a yellow moments earlier.
The second half began the way the first half ended: boring. And the match failed to really improve from that point on. Much like the first, Origi looked like the only player on the pitch who had an interest in scoring goals. And again, he had a couple of half-chances in the second half. A particularly big chance came courtesy of a perfect through ball from Can, but again, the final product was left wanting. Origi played it around the keeper, but too wide, and could not find the support he needed in or around the box to take advantage of the keeper who had come off his line.
Coutinho made his much-anticipated return at the hour mark, and was promptly swallowed by a sea of major boredom and general apathy. The other Brazilian, Firmino, continued his run of lack-luster form, failing to contribute much going forward. That said, the front three of Firmino, Origi, and Lallana were much better at pressuring the defense than they showed over the weekend, low bar as that might be to clear.
Henderson came off after 76 solid minutes and was replaced by Jordan Rossiter. It wasn't the best performance from the skipper, but it wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination. He put in a typically industrious performance and did well to press and clog up the middle of the pitch.
The last substitution was a 90th minute cameo by Cameron Brannagan, on for Firmino. By this point in the preceding, it was obvious that both sides were happy to take their point and move on to the knockout stages. When the final whistle blew, the home fans celebrated the achievement of qualifying for the knockout stage, a feat no previous FC Sion side had accomplished.
You couldn't really call the performance bad, as Sion never really threatened the goal, and Liverpool did create the better chances. But it was incredibly boring, and the scoreless draw was well deserved. Sometimes a scoreless draw is all you need to advance, and both sides made sure that was going to happen tonight.