Liverpool have qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League as group winners after a goalless draw against FC Sion at the Stade Tourbillon.
Having already qualified for the knockout stages there was little to aim for and far more to avoid – injury being the main concern on a pitch which appeared part frozen – but everyone emerged unscathed to add a fourth draw to their two wins in six matches unbeaten in Europe.
Reds manager Jurgen Klopp had spoken before the game of the need to create rhythm but this was a performance so staccato and out of tune it is difficult to see what how the players benefited at all.
The German made six changes from Sunday’s defeat at Newcastle but even with the inclusion of 21-year-old left-back Brad Smith, making his first start, still fielded a side of 11 full internationals, even though they lacked cohesion and fluency.
Smith’s energy and enthusiasm to get forward meant his flank was Liverpool’s most profitable in the first half but, for all the youngster’s endeavour, what could just about be described as their only chance saw Divock Origi, preferred up front to Belgium team-mate Christian Benteke, fire a left-to-right shot wide of the far post.
Origi was also dispossessed by Elsad Zverotic just as he was about to pull the trigger in a rare piece of action inside the penalty area.
There seemed little intent or purpose to Liverpool’s approach, with aimless passes often punted forward towards Origi and players seemingly keen to offload the ball on a tricky pitch.
Sion, needing only a point to qualify for the knockout stage, were not particularly ambitious themselves, but their best effort saw Edimilson Fernandes, who easily turned Kolo Toure, shoot wide having charged into space behind the centre-back.
Ebenezer Assifuah, having been booked for a late challenge on Emre Can, was lucky to escape dismissal for clattering into James Milner moments later and for a brief period the game had something resembling a competitive edge, with Smith earning a talking to for a couple of robust challenges but half-time restored the game to its previous state of torpor.
The arrival of playmaker Philippe Coutinho for Milner on the hour for his first appearance in four matches after a hamstring injury offered some hope of an increased goal threat, but the fingertips of Andris Vanins prevented Origi rounding the Sion goalkeeper from Can’s pass.
Sion gave it more of a go in the final 10 minutes but they were more than happy with the draw to take them through.