After a relatively successful first part of pre-season where Liverpool faced Chester, Tranmere Rovers, Bury and Blackburn Rovers, it was time for the team to test themselves against some stronger opposition in the International Champions Cup in the USA. The first test – Borussia Dortmund.
Players named to miss this encounter, apart from those who haven’t yet joined up with the squad, were: Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Marko Grujić, Georginio Wijnaldum and Pedro Chirivella. Chirivella complained about a sore back earlier (frankly, I haven’t seen any Barca links yet but hey, the window is not closed yet).
The First Half
Klopp sent out these 11 to start the game: Loris Karius in goal; Nathaniel Clyne, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Andy Robertson at the back; Fabinho, Adam Lallana and Curtis Jones in the middle; Camacho, Marković and Origi upfront.
Manager Lucien Favre lined Dortmund up like this:
— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) July 22, 2018
Dortmund entered the game with much grit and yet another mistake from Loris Karius almost gave them a lead after only four minutes. A pass went behind the defence and Karius rushed out in a proper sweeper-keeper manner, made the interception, but his clearance went straight to the feet of an opposition player who tried his luck from 45 yards with goal gaping, but the shot fortunately missed the target.
The game quickly developed a tempo, with both teams looking to show their creativity and explosiveness. Robertson and Marković combined well on the left, as did Clyne and Camacho on the right. Origi made the Dortmund defence work with his physicality and movement, while Lallana and Fabinho also looked lively.
On the other hand, Sahin and Sancho acted as two playmakers for a very technical Dortmund style. Like Origi, Phillip constantly gave van Dijk and Matip something to think about, supported by the runs of Wolf. Dahoud, who was once linked with a move to Liverpool, showed very little.
A sign of worry for Klopp came after 17 minutes when Matip complained about something and left the pitch to receive treatment. With no reason to risk anything at this point, the manager ordered Fabinho to drop beside van Dijk and the rest of the team to abandon pressing and drop deeper. A few minutes later Joe Gomez came on and the team resumed their usual shape.
25 minutes in, a nice combination between Clyne and Camacho on the right-hand side, coupled with Origi applying some pressure on his marker, earned a corner for Liverpool. Camacho took it short to Robertson whose cross was pin-point accurate, finding the free jump of van Dijk on the edge of six yards and the Reds were in the lead.
From that moment on it was a bit easier as Dortmund seemed to have lost some of their drive. Marković and Camacho swapped sides a few times and that also seemed to confuse them. They just couldn’t string a few passes together and Liverpool held the game tightly under control. Once they managed to get a counterattack going but Liverpool defended well, forcing them wide. A sharp cross by Wolf came in across the six-yard box but Karius got a strong grip on it.
Lallana and Fabinho occasionally played long passes from deep looking for runs in behind, and they often looked dangerous for Dortmund who, like Liverpool, played a high defensive line.
BIG @VirgilvDijk header the difference at the break. 💪
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 22, 2018
The Second Half
Having come on half way through the first 45 minutes, Gomez stayed on the pitch along with Clyne and Karius. They were now joined by Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno in defence; James Milner replaced Fabinho at the midfield base, Naby Keita and Ben Woodburn were tasked with box-to-box roles, Sheyi Ojo played on the right side of attack, Dominic Solanke on the left, supporting Daniel Sturridge upfront. After an hour, Nathaniel Phillips replaced Clyne and slotted at centre-back while Gomez moved to the right defensive flank.
Favre also changed a lot for the second half. Schmelzer, Bockhorn, Pulisic, Goetze, Sergio Gomez, Larsen, Isak, Burnic and Pieper all came on.
Liverpool dominated strongly after the break and created a lot. Sturridge, Solanke and Ojo all had decent chances to double the lead, but they didn’t.
They were eventually punished for the lack of ruthlessness after 65 minutes. Solanke irresponsibly lost the ball deep in his own half, Pulisic got away from Moreno by cutting in, entered the box and went down after getting caught between Milner and Klavan. The referee a bit harshly gave a penalty, and Pulisic put it away himself.
The young American, who has also been liked with Liverpool a few times, played really well. Whenever he had the ball it was by no means easy to track his runs and he always looked like he can cause all sorts of danger. But Liverpool were still the better team.
Moreno failed to take advantage of a fabulous pass from Solanke, a Gomez header from a Milner corner was saved well, Keita couldn’t get at the end of a dangerous pull-back by Moreno, and then it was time for Pulisic to punish the Reds again. He combined well with Goetze to get past the initial press by Liverpool, got the ball back at the edge of the box and smacked it low and strong into the bottom corner as the clock was showing a minute from 90.
But it wasn’t the end from the winger. Two minutes into the stoppage time Dortmund broke again and Pulisic was in the spotlight once more, beating Moreno inside the box to deliver a low shot from close range. Karius parried it but it fell straight at the feet of Larsen who slammed it from six yards into the top corner of the gaping goal.
It may seem strange to hear given the result of the game, but there isn’t much for Klopp to worry about at this point. His players flew across the Atlantic the day before and fatigue, displayed by the obvious lack of focus at both ends of the pitch, was to be expected. Pulisic played like he had a point to prove and he took full advantage of the huge support he received from the stands, and used his indisputable quality to turn the game around.
Another thing to bear in mind is that this was a very strong Dortmund line-up in the second half, while Liverpool still have a number of key players (Salah, Firmino, Mane, Henderson, Lovren, Alexander-Arnold, Wijnaldum, Alisson, Shaqiri) joining the squad soon.
Next up – Manchester City.
We walk on.