Previous Match Infographics: Chelsea (a), Southampton (h), Rubin Kazan (h), Tottenham (a), Everton (a), FC Sion (h), Aston Villa (h), Norwich (h), Bordeaux (a), Manchester United (a), West Ham (h), Arsenal (a), Bournemouth (h), Stoke (a)
As always for Europa League matches, all data from WhoScored.
(Nota Bene: Here's the formation diagram usually included in match reviews.)
That was Liverpool's first clean sheet in Russia in five attempts (0-2 Zenit, 0-1 Anzhi, 3-1 Spartak Moscow, 2-1 Spartak Vladikavkaz, 0-2 Spartak Moscow), six if you want to count an 0-3 loss at Dinamo Tbilisi – then part of the USSR and Soviet League – in 1979. It was the first time any English side avoided defeat in Kazan, let alone won: Kazan beat Wigan 1-0 in 2013-14, 3-2 v Chelsea in 2012-13, and 1-0 Tottenham in 2010-11. It's the furthest an English side has traveled in European competition and won.
Never mind the narrow scoreline, continued wastefulness, or quality of opposition. Those are some impressive streaks to have broken.
And at the same time, Liverpool hadn't won an away match in Europe since a 1-0 victory at Udinese in December 2012, the final Europa League group stage match that campaign. Since then? 0-2 Zenit, 0-1 Basel, 0-1 Madrid, 2-2 Ludogorets, 0-1 Besiktas, 1-1 Bordeaux. Six matches: two draws, four losses, three goals scored.
That's really all that matters. Liverpool stopped the rot away from home, especially in Europe; Liverpool eked out a fairly comfortable victory, despite the scoreline, in a difficult away match far from home; and Liverpool remain unbeaten since Jürgen Klopp became manager. Anything else is just quibbling.
But I can't help some quibbling. If you guessed it's mainly about Liverpool's shooting, well, great, you've also seen Liverpool in the last two seasons.
Over the two fixtures against Kazan, Liverpool out-shot their opponents 58-12 on aggregate. By a factor of nearly five to one. Just 12 of Liverpool's 58 shots (20.7%) were on-target. And Liverpool out-scored Kazan 2-1.
• Prior to Liverpool's goal: 15 Liverpool shots – eight off-target, seven blocked. Nine of 15 from outside the box.
• After the goal: seven Liverpool shots – five on-target, one off, one blocked. None of Liverpool's shots after the goal came from outside the box.
Once Liverpool got the goal – quick passing from Sakho to Allen to Firmino after Sakho claimed a wayward goal kick, a lovely layoff from Firmino to Ibe, Ibe's pace on the quick transition finally breaching Kazan's back line – Liverpool at least got smarter and more accurate with its shots. That's no small matter.
Milner hit the crossbar, Liverpool should have earned a penalty (Liverpool still haven't earned a penalty this season), Ryzhikov made an outstanding save (albeit on what would have been an own goal) just before halftime. Good chances were few and far between, but Liverpool had chances, away from home in Europe, against a side that wanted nothing more than to defend.
The scoring issues are slowly getting better – Liverpool have at least scored once in every match under Klopp except the first at Tottenham – but Liverpool still have issues scoring. This should surprise no one.
But it is getting better. Liverpool are putting slightly fewer shots on-target, but Liverpool are taking more shots and allowing fewer, with an especially stark difference away from home. There are caveats, because of course. Sample size. The 47 shots against Carlisle, with extra time, boosting the early season totals. Rodgers' away matches were Stoke, Arsenal, United, Bordeaux, and Everton; only Bordeaux were "weak" opposition. Klopp's have been Tottenham, Chelsea, and Kazan – just three matches, and Kazan probably the worst of any side Liverpool have faced away.
Still, those totals look promising, and seeing Liverpool take the game to their opponents, any opponent, away from home, especially in Europe, is a welcome sight.
Liverpool never took more than 15 shots in the 11 European away matches under Brendan Rodgers, that "high" coming in the 0-1 loss at Basel last season. Sure, most of Liverpool's opponents were better than Rubin Kazan, but that murderers' row also includes the likes of Gomel and Hearts (albeit in qualifying rounds, before the full side returned), Young Boys, Udinese, and Ludogorets. Meanwhile, Liverpool's opponents in those 11 matches averaged more than 15 shots per match. That's exacerbated by Real Madrid's 27, but Ludogorets took 18, Besiktas took 21 (albeit with extra time), Zenit took 16, etc.
Despite being at home, Kazan took just seven shots – only two more than at Anfield – and didn't put any of them on target. Liverpool allowed zero shots on-target just four times during Brendan Rodgers' tenure: twice last season (1-0 at Burnley and 0-0 v Bolton, 16 and seven total shots respectively) and twice in 2013-14 (2-0 v Hull and 5-0 at Tottenham, 10 and nine shots respectively).
That's now three consecutive wins – the first time that's happened since February – after three consecutive draws. The last Liverpool manager to go unbeaten in his first six games? Bob Paisley, way back in the 1974-75 season, with seven wins (one, in the Charity Shield, on penalties) and a draw before a loss at Manchester City. Rodgers won his first two, the two legs against Gomel; Dalglish lost his first match at United in the FA Cup; Hodgson was unbeaten through four, European wins against Rabotnicki (twice) and Trabzonspor as well as a draw v Arsenal; Benitez won two and drew one before losing; Houllier lost his first match v Leeds; Evans drew once before losing; Souness won twice before losing; Dalglish won one and drew one to start his first stint; Fagan lost his first match (albeit in the Charity Shield, before a seven-match unbeaten run). It's even more impressive that Klopp's done it mid-season; Dalglish, Houllier, and Evans all struggled for a time after taking over during the campaign.
So, yeah, Liverpool could have shot better. But, after finally winning in Europe and again winning away from home, that's not a massive concern. My biggest concern is the cost. The reason that Rodgers struggled in Europe is that Rodgers rarely played full-strength sides in Europe, protecting players for the more important league matches. I'm curious – and apprehensive – to see what effect yesterday's efforts have on Sunday's match against a dangerous Crystal Palace.