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Sparta and Liverpool draw a blank

AC Sparta Praha 0-0 Liverpool FC
On a chilly Prague night clear-cut chances were at a premium as both sides seemed to miss respective departed spearheads.

Sparta and Liverpool draw a blank
Sparta and Liverpool draw a blank ©UEFA.com

AC Sparta Praha and Liverpool FC cancelled each other out to ensure their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie hangs in the balance ahead of next Thursday's Anfield return.

Despite the game efforts of right-backs Ondřej Kušnír and Glen Johnson to inject spark up the flanks, neither goalkeeper was frequently tested. Sparta and Liverpool appeared to be coming to terms to life without departed spearheads Wilfried Bony and Fernando Torres, but nevertheless both remain in contention.

Sparta, playing their first competitive game since the 1-1 home draw against PFC CSKA Moskva on 15 December, fielded newly-signed midfielders Martin Abena and Andrej Keric, who threatened with an angled 13th-minute shot. Liverpool, without Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger and Christian Poulsen, had began the brighter but were now being pegged back, Abena setting up Manuel Pamić to force Pepe Reina into a diving save.

The home side were happy to soak up Liverpool possession then counter at pace, the livewire Kušnír going close in a 35th-minute attack. Sotiris Kyrgiakos also bravely blocked a Marek Matějovský effort. Kenny Dalglish, managing Liverpool in Europe for the first time, sent on Joe Cole for Fábio Aurélio but chances remained rare.

That pattern remained in the second half, though Kamil Vacek's 63rd-minute cross was headed not far wide by Sparta's lone forward Leony Kweuke. At the other end, Johnson was pushing up the right and ran on to a long ball, cut into the box past two defenders and shot narrowly off target.

Reina proved his worth again when Kweuke turned and struck from close range. Matějovský and Vacek had attempts from distance in the dying minutes and there was a late Sparta debut for Tomáš Pekhart, but the deadlock remained.

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