As they continue their preparations for the start of the season, Liverpool played their second friendly on Tuesday, July 10, away to Tranmere Rovers. This time the kick-off was moved a day forward in order not to clash with a game played by England at the World Cup again – the semi-final against Croatia, but it did clash with the other semi, Belgium vs France.
The First Half
For the first 45 minutes Jurgen Klopp selected the following players:
Danny Ward in goal, Ragnar Klavan and Nathaniel Phillips at the back joined by Andy Robertson on the left and Rafael Camacho on the right, Fabinho anchoring the midfield where he was joined by Adam Lallana (wearing the armband) and Naby Keita, while Dominic Solanke upfront was flanked by Sheyi Ojo and Ryan Kent.
Even though Tranmere put in a bit more effort against the Reds than Chester a few days earlier and there were still a few moments of understandable sloppiness in passing, Liverpool easily and regularly found ways through the ranks of the home team. After half an hour of not very impressive play, it was 0-3, courtesy of Camacho, Ojo and Lallana.
However, Tranmere suddenly had a great chance to pull one back right after the third goal, but Ward produced a fantastic save. Apart from that moment, the back line was almost completely unchallenged. Young Phillips even found himself at the other end of the pitch near the end of the half attacking a Kent cross, and together with the Camacho goal it prompts the question whether this is some new piece of tactics devised by Klopp and his staff to surprise opposing defences.
Similar to Moreno and Jones against Chester, Robertson and Kent worked together extremely well on the left side. The former Hull fullback fully echoed the quality of a player that started the Champions League final and as time goes by, he’s putting his name up down to contest the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane for the title of the best signing of the Klopp era. Kent was really smart in his positioning and finding space out wide, offering a great outlet for a fast switch of play and then causing havoc with his eye for runners into the box.
Unfortunately, Solanke and Lallana, who were on the receiving end more often than others, still lack sharpness. Otherwise there could have been a lot more goals.
The Second Half
After the break, Loris Karius stood between the posts. Joe Gomez and Pedro Chirivella formed the centre-back duo with Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno covering the flanks. James Milner, Ben Woodburn and Curtis Jones formed the midfield behind Harry Wilson, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge in attack.
Liverpool’s tenacity in the second period dropped off notably. Moreno and Clyne were industrious again along the by-lines, Milner was hard-working and tidy at the midfield base, Sturridge again kept dropping deeper to pick up the ball and try to create, Origi mostly stayed as the furthest one upfront but occasionally made diagonal runs to leave space for others to run into.
However, Woodburn and Jones just couldn’t impose themselves on the game properly, Wilson had a much quieter 45 minutes than against Chester, while Gomez and Chirivella acted a bit irresponsibly at times. But the man that opened the door for Tranmere to come back into the game was, unfortunately, Loris Karius.
A free-kick was given to the hosts 20 yards from the goal in a position favourable for a left-footed shooter, but Ollie Norburn blasted it forcefully with his right straight into Karius. The German however failed to hold the ball and fumbled, and Jonny Smith pounced to make it 1-3. To be fair it was a proper thunderbolt, but Karius should have done better nonetheless.
Norburn's FK was sweetly struck but straight at him. Karius dropped it and handed Smith a tap-in.
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) July 10, 2018
The goal gave Tranmere a strong boost. They suddenly defended with much more desire and often broke into quick counterattacks. But it was Liverpool again who brought about their own demise. Chirivella’s poorly weighed pass never reached its target (Milner) and Amadou Soukuna took advantage, found himself one-on-one with Karius and slotted home.
The Reds did however spring into life immediately afterwards. A very good cross by Clyne was almost turned in by Wilson but the youngster couldn’t connect, while Origi’s subsequent shot was blocked. There were several other chances, even a possible penalty not given by referee Mike Dean (yes, him), but there were a few more promising counterattacks by Tranmere too.
Apart from the typical early pre-season rustiness, the first half was impeccable. Keita still looks like the player we expect him to be, Fabinho had a much better outing than the last time, Lallana was everywhere and wore a smile on his face troughout, Ojo played better too, Kent and Robertson were unplayable on a few occasions. Solanke still needs work, but overall it was a very good 45-minute exercise.
However, the second-half mistake by Karius is the last thing Klopp will have wanted to see, especially given the manner in which it was made and the support the manager publicly gave to his chosen goalkeeper. If it’s repeated during the summer, Klopp just might opt to change his plans again.
As for the youngsters, they will have to do a lot better than this if they are to challenge any senior player, especially in midfield. The underwhelming second half has significantly marred the overall impression, set up initially to be great by the inspiring performance in the opening half.
Next up, it’s Bury on Saturday, and let’s hope those who disappointed in this game pick their game up in that one.
We walk on.