Rubin Kazan 0-1 Liverpool: Jordon Ibe winner earns Reds' first Europa League win
Last Updated: 06/11/15 8:13am
Jordon Ibe's first goal for Liverpool was enough to give his side their opening Europa League win of the season against Rubin Kazan.
Ibe scored the only goal of the game in the 52nd minute with a low drive, after Liverpool had been frustrated by Rubin's stubborn defence in a first-half that lacked clear-cut opportunities for either side.
James Milner had the Reds' best chance before the goal but could only hit the crossbar, while Rubin failed to register a shot on target in a performance that lacked ambition in front of a packed and partisan home crowd.
The 1-0 victory, Liverpool's first away from home in Europe since December 2012, consolidates their position behind FC Sion in Group B, and they are now three points clear of Bordeaux in third. Rubin sit bottom of the group with two points from four games, and after single-goal victories over Chelsea, Wigan and Tottenham in their three previous home matches against English opposition, they have now tasted defeat for the first time.
The Reds had opened their Europa League campaign with three consecutive 1-1 draws, and travelled to Kazan looking to kick-start their European season. Jurgen Klopp picked a strong side to do just that, with Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino up front from the start.
In anticipation of a record crowd, Rubin moved the venue for Thursday's fixture to the Kazan Arena, the site of the 2015 World Aquatics Championship and a stadium fit to host 2018 World Cup matches. The pitch had only been laid two weeks prior to kick-off having been occupied by swimming pools over the summer, and its bumpy surface suited Rubin's cautious approach.
It meant Klopp's side had to be patient through a frustrating first 45 minutes as their Russian opponents sat back and invited pressure. Milner had Liverpool's clearest opportunity after just six minutes, but the England international's effort flicked the bar from seven yards after a cute nutmeg from Firmino.
Ibe and Nathaniel Clyne were constant threats down the right-hand side, but too often the Reds ended pretty passing moves with poor crosses, leaving little for Benteke to attack.
Klopp's impact was again evident as Milner, Ibe, Benteke and Firmino pressed from the front, harassing a Rubin team that struggled to put a single attacking move together. Ibe nearly unlocked the Rubin defence on the stroke of half-time, but 'keeper Sergey Ryzhikov superbly adjusted to the winger's deflected shot and scrambled the ball clear at the second attempt.
With Klopp's half-time message still fresh, Liverpool didn't have to wait long after the break to open the scoring. Seven minutes into the second half Ibe broke his Reds duck, storming into the Rubin box and striking past Ryzhikov from 12 yards via the post.
Ibe had the opportunity to double the lead 16 minutes later, but this time the Rubin 'keeper did well to save the winger's low shot after a lightning counter-attack involving Benteke and substitute Adam Lallana.
Ryzhikov kept the Russian side in the game with saves from Dejan Lovren, Emre Can and Milner again, before Valeri Chaly's side broke free and committed men forward as the final 20 minutes approached. Simon Mignolet flapped at one innocuous cross before Maksim Kanunnikov sparked momentary panic in the Reds defence as he looked to work space in the box.
But Liverpool's Russian opponents failed to test Mignolet once in the 90 minutes, with all seven of their efforts off target as the Reds monopolised 68 per cent of the possession. Rubin, struggling in the Russian Premier League and only out of the relegation play-off zone on goal difference, looked a shadow of the side that tested Liverpool with 10 men two weeks earlier.
The victory extends Liverpool's unbeaten run to 12 games, although eight of them have been draws, and continues the improvement that has been noticeable since the change in manager on Merseyside.
Next up for Klopp's side is the visit of Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday, their final match before the international break.