Liverpool FC edged into the round of 32 as Group K winners with a 1-1 draw at FC Steaua Bucureşti that kept them three points ahead of their closest challengers.
Milan Jovanović's first European goal for the Reds after 19 minutes broke the deadlock but the Army Men battled back with Éder Bonfim levelling after an error by Pepe Reina just past the hour as Steaua retained second spot in Group K, two points ahead of their final opponents, SSC Napoli.
Liverpool made ten changes from the side beaten by Tottenham Hotspur FC on Sunday and the unfamiliarity in their ranks doubtless contributed to a disjointed opening. The first chance arrived after 15 minutes and it was a fine one that Steaua spurned as Eric Bicfalvi headed over Romeo Surdu's cross from close range.
Roy Hodgson's men made them pay for that profligacy as Ryan Babel wrong-footed the home rearguard and crossed for Jovanović to head expertly into the corner. The visitors then appeared content to play on the counterattack and were comfortable until the stroke of half-time when Bogdan Stancu escaped the attentions of Sotiris Kyrgiakos only to slice wide from close range.
Marius Lacatus's charges were brighter early in the second half but only fashioned one opportunity of note when Cristian Tănase crossed and Geraldo Alves's header was smothered by an alert Reina. The goalkeeper was not so composed on 61 minutes, however, when substitute Stanislav Angelov's centre was nodded tamely towards goal by Bonfim only for the Spain custodian to allow it to slide between his legs.
Kyrgiakos nearly restored Liverpool's lead when he out-jumped Ciprian Tătăruşanu only for his header to clip the bar while Bănel Nicoliţă narrowly missed the near post for Steaua with a 20-metre drive and Stancu the top corner with a curling effort. But with a draw in the other group match maintaining the status quo, both sides settled for a share of the spoils.
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