Liverpool held by Sparta

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PRAGUE, February 18- Kenny Dalglish extended his unbeaten streak as Liverpool manager as his first European match in the dugout saw them held to a goalless draw by Sparta Prague in their Europa League Last 32 first leg clash here on Thursday.

But the game gave him few reasons to smile before Liverpool face Sparta at Anfield on February 24 for the second-leg match and the soon to be 60-year-old Scot admitted that he would be looking towards a far more offensive-minded performance.

"We’d rather be more offensive than we were… obviously next week we’d anticipate a different game," said Dalglish.

"My first opportunity to be in Europe as manager – it was fantastic and brought back fond memories," he added.

Sparta manager Jozef Chovanec said he was relieved that after such a long period of inactivity for his side that they had come away on level terms.

"It wasn’t easy, we hadn’t played in competition for two months, but we tried to do our best," said the 50-year-old former Czechoslovakian international midfielder, who began and ended his distinguished career with Sparta.

"The result would have been a matter of a single mistake, but neither team made one.

The game was dominated by defence. It was hard to score really."

Dalglish, who in January took over as caretaker manager until the end of the season for a second time after a previous spell in 1985-1991, started with David Ngog as the only striker.

The Reds, though, were missing the injured trio of Andy Carroll (thigh), Steven Gerrard (groin) and Daniel Agger (adductor).

A lacklustre first half offered few scoring chances and most of them for Sparta, who are presently second in the Czech championship which will resume after a winter break on the last weekend of February.

Sparta’s Croatian winger Manuel Pamic sent his shot from inside the box over the bar, and ex-Reading midfielder Marek Matejovsky’s swerving shot from 10 metres was blocked by Greek defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos’s face.

Dalglish, a former Liverpool striker, replaced Fabio Aurelio, who injured his groin, with Joe Cole 37 minutes into the game.

Within a minute, Cole set up Ngog whose shot from close range was blocked by the Sparta defence led by ex-West Ham skipper, 37-year-old hardman Tomas Repka.

Just before halftime, Dirk Kuyt slipped three metres from the Sparta goal and narrowly missed a ball headed into the box.

In the second half, Sparta’s Cameroon striker Leonard Kweuke headed just wide before sending in a low shot at Pepe Reina’s goal from 10 metres which had the Spanish goalkeeper scrambling to save.

Before the end Matejovsky and another Sparta midfielder Kamil Vacek shot wide from long range.

The game was Dalglish’s first in a European competition as Liverpool manager as the Reds were banned from European cups throughout his first term.

The ban followed the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster that left 39 people dead in the wake of rioting ahead of the European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus.

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