Liverpool took a step towards the Europa League knock-out stages with a 1-0 win over Rubin Kazan in Russia.
Jordon Ibe’s first goal for the club in his 30th appearance was enough to decide the encounter against Rubin Kazan, a match the visitors dominated with a calm and controlling performance for which the 1-0 scoreline did not do justice.
After three successive 1-1 draws in the Europa League, their first win in nine European group games gives them a much healthier outlook for Group B, where they now trail leaders Sion by only a point after their 1-1 stalemate with Bordeaux.
Klopp has now recorded three wins on the bounce in different competitions – the Capital One Cup against Bournemouth and Premier League at Chelsea previously – and will hope they can carry that form into Sunday’s visit of Crystal Palace.
Joe Allen was the goalscorer – against Udinese in December 2012 – the last time Liverpool won on foreign soil and he was the only surviving member of that team to start in Russia.
Exactly one year and one day ago, an under-strength Liverpool side – famously not including then captain Steven Gerrard – was running out to face Real Madrid in the Champions League.
The 45,000-capacity Rubin Arena is the most modern of stadia, built two years ago ahead of the 2018 World Cup, and while it cannot compete with the Bernabeu, it is not the easiest place to come to.
Rubin had beaten Chelsea, Tottenham and FA Cup winners Wigan on Russian soil and that was part of the reason Klopp brought the strongest squad available to him.
It meant a first start since September 20 for Christian Benteke and while his team-mates did their best to supply him with ammunition, there was not a great deal to trouble goalkeeper Sergei Ryzhikov in the first half.
The visitors dominated on a pitch which had been relaid after the stadium hosted the World Swimming Championships in July when they dug up the playing surface and built two swimming pools on it before reversing the process to restore football activity.
That did not help matters but James Milner’s rasping shot against the crossbar from Roberto Firmino’s clever little pass around the corner and Solomon Kverkvelia’s overhead kick clearance to deny Benteke a goalscoring opportunity inside the opening eight minutes was a positive opening.
But Ryzhikov was not properly tested until added time, producing a brilliant reaction save from Kverkvelia’s misdirected header from Ibe’s cross and then clawing away the loose ball.
The breakthrough came seven minutes into the second half when Firmino popped off another a pass to allow Ibe to advance 15 yards and clip a shot in off Ryzhikov’s far post.
Milner almost made it two, cutting in from the right forcing the goalkeeper to tip over his fierce effort, while Emre Can drilled a weak clearance straight at the busy Ryzhikov, whose legs denied Ibe on the counter-attack.
Rubin exerted some late pressure in attempt to salvage their proud European record of not having lost a group stage game at home but it was to no avail.