Liverpool and Celtic draw opening Europa League ties

SoccerBy Sunday World
Adam Lallana scores for Liverpool in Bordeaux
Adam Lallana scores for Liverpool in Bordeaux

Liverpool and Celtic secured away draws in their first games in the Europa League group stages.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers' Europa League gamble almost paid off as the club's young guns were held to a 1-1 draw in Bordeaux.

Adam Lallana's brilliant-but-simple goal midway through the second half was the highlight of a dogged display as the England midfielder capped his first appearance for a month after injury but was cancelled out by substitute Jussie nine minutes from time.

However, it was the performance of the club's next generation which caught the eye.

Rodgers made eight changes from the defeat against Manchester United at the weekend - leaving six regulars at home - and after less than half an hour there was another alteration as Kolo Toure was forced off with a leg injury inflicted by his own goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

On the positive side it presented a debut to academy graduate Pedro Chirivella and brought the average age of the side down to 21.7 with 18-year-olds Joe Gomez, Jordan Rossiter and Chirivella, alongside Jordon Ibe (19) and Divock Origi (20).

Another academy star Cameron Brannagan was handed his debut with 10 minutes to go, replacing Rossiter who visibly grew into his central midfield role.

But it was asking a lot for a team of such inexperience to produce a dominating performance and great responsibility lay on the shoulders of Philippe Coutinho and the fit-again Lallana.

Coutinho dropped deep but whenever he got the ball and turned there was very little to aim for with Origi appearing as a solitary figure up front as the absent Christian Benteke had at Old Trafford last weekend.

The Brazil playmaker persevered, drilling one shot from distance against the post late in the first half, but Lallana - still rusty after a month's lay-off - wanted one too many touches and even when Ibe picked him out in space outside the penalty area he delayed long enough to be dispossessed before he could break into the box.

Bordeaux, mid-table in Ligue 1 with just one victory, had all the best chances in the first half with Diego Rolan twice shooting over - once lobbing Mignolet but landing the ball on top of the net - Wahbi Khazri flicking an effort shot wide and Henri Saivet lifting a free-kick straight into the goalkeeper's arms.

Liverpool had a greater degree of control in the second half as Rossiter and Chirivella, long-time youth team colleagues, got into their stride and took centre-stage.

Coutinho combined with Lallana for their first shot on target but they were exceptionally grateful for Crivelli bundling wide of an open goal when Gomez's header dropped to Nicolas Maurice-Belay in the six-yard box.

It was a pivotal moment as Lallana's deft touch nutmegged Pablo and teed up a first-time finish inside the far post.

Substitute Danny Ings almost made it 2-0 with a carbon copy effort only to be denied by the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso and Jussie's late equaliser was the sucker punch.

Celtic led twice against Ajax but the Scottish champions had to make do with a point.

A late goal from substitute Lasse Schone gave Ajax a 2-2 draw against Celtic at the Amsterdam ArenA where Hoops left-back Emilio Izaguirre was sent off.

In an absorbing encounter, right-back Mikael Lustig headed the Parkhead men into an interval lead in the 42nd minute after Danish midfielder Viktor Fischer had cancelled out midfielder Nir Bitton's eighth minute opener.

Celtic looked assured after the break but when Izaguirre was dismissed in the 74th minute by referee Luca Banti for picking up his second yellow of the night with a foul on Anwar El Ghazi, the home side came storming back with Schone scoring a free-kick in the 84th minute and Ronny Deila's side hanging on for a point.