The final pre-season friendly for Liverpool away from Anfield saw the fabled front 3 all on the pitch together for the 1st time in the preparations for the new campaign following Roberto Firmino’s return to the side and Jurgen Klopp responded by immediately restoring him to the starting line up alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah. At the opposite end of the field, Alisson Becker made his long awaited debut appearance for the club much to the delight of the many Irish Reds that packed themselves into the Aviva Stadium in Dublin along with a few local reds who had travelled across the water to cheer on the reds.
12 months earlier, Liverpool had entertained Athletic Bilbao and sealed a 3-1 victory with goals coming from a Firmino penalty and 2nd half strikes from Ben Woodburn and Dominic Solanke. The supporters in the Aviva this time around had just minutes to wait for the 1st goal of the afternoon as the reliable James Milner arrived onto a pass from Sadio Mane who cleverly turned away from the defenders and struck it home with little over 3 minutes on the clock. Just over 5 minutes later and Milner turned provider, sending a cross towards the 6 yard box and Gini Wijnaldum got in ahead of the keeper to head Liverpool into a 2-0 lead and there were not even 9 minutes on the clock.
Liverpool’s front 3 were linking up like they had never been away and sights like that will surely give supporters huge optimism ahead of the campaign starting next weekend. Napoli barely caused Liverpool any trouble with Alisson making his 1st save after 25 minutes. It could have been 3 before half time but Roberto Firmino was adjudged offside when he scored after Salah had chosen to take slightly more time in finding his team mate, although replays suggested Hamsik of Napoli had played the pass to the Brazilian. Just minutes later and Liverpool were breathing a sigh of relief as Napoli had the ball in the net thanks to Callejon but the linesman wrongly adjudged him to be offside after he rounded Alisson. The sole substitution at half time saw Xherdan Shaqiri come on for Firmino in a move that saw Mane move central and Shaqiri take the vacant space on the left.
James Milner clashed heads with Mario Rui, with the cut requiring 15 stitches and Liverpool brought Fabinho in his place. Just 2 minutes later and Salah had the fans cheering again as he showed the poise and precision we were used to witnessing last season. His initial header to find Mane was blocked by the defender who appealed for a foul in vain as Salah picked the ball up and then hammered it into the net with accuracy and pace that saw it curl beautifully into the top corner from just yards out. It was then time for a wave of substitutions with Trent Alexander-Arnold returning after his World Cup excursions with England entering the field alongside Curtis Jones, Dominic Solanke, Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno.
Daniel Sturridge has been one of the many positives of pre-season and it wasn’t too long before he was involved with the action, denied by the keeper and then when attempting a lob (reminiscent of his West Brom goal from the 13/14 season), the ball dropped narrowly wide. Liverpool then brought Divock Origi onto the field and as Shaqiri’s ball found Origi in space, the Belgian striker took aim and as the keeper palmed the ball away, not for the 1st time in this pre-season schedule, Daniel Sturridge reacted quickest to thump home a rebound to take the score to 4-0.
60 seconds that showcased positives and negatives of Alberto Moreno’s game as Daniel Sturridge, incredibly deep on the right hand side in his own half, sent a raking ball to the opposite flank and Moreno sized up his defender before striking at goal from just inside the area with tremendous pace on the strike taking it past the goalkeeper despite the attempts of the Napoli goalkeeper. Orestis Karnezis must be sick of the sight of Liverpool having shipped 5 goals at Anfield in March, whilst playing for Watford in the Premier League. Moreno’s defensively qualities were tested just after the goal but he made a daft lunge and conceded a free kick in a dangerous position which thankfully didn’t result in the clean sheet of Alisson being spoiled.
Liverpool had further chances to grab a 6th goal but it never came and Liverpool now focus on Torino on Tuesday to conclude the preparation although it will be interesting to see what involvement the side that is likely to be starting on Sunday against West Ham will have as many suggested that the starting XI from this Napoli fixture with the possibility of a couple of personnel changes is likely to be that kicking off the Premier League campaign.
What started with a 7-0 win at Chester, took in a 3-2 victory at Tranmere, a 0-0 draw at Bury and a 2-0 victory at Blackburn Rovers then headed stateside for a 3-1 defeat to Dortmund, a 2-1 victory over Manchester City and an impressive showing in a 4-1 victory over a Man United side that left Mourinho moaning about his team and the spending of Liverpool. A thoroughly impressive 5-0 workout in Dublin now ensures all roads lead to Anfield. Pre-season results don’t have too much of a part to play in who may or may not win trophies but it’s fair to say the style of football on display from the 1st team players to the so called reserves and youth players has only increased the positive vibes ahead of the new campaign.