Arbeloa Carragher Agger Riise
Benayoun Sissoko Alonso Kewell
55’ – Pennant for Kewell, Kuyt for Crouch
66’ – Finnan for Benayoun
73’ – Hyypia for Sissoko
78’ – Threlfall for Alonso
83’ – Martin for Carson
Riise 10’; Alonso 28’; Agger 74’
Li Haiqiang 35’
With only seven subs on the bench, Liverpool had far less chance to chop and change as they have in previous preseason outings, but we still got to see a wide variation of players. That Hyypia came on for Sissoko in the 73rd minute in a straight swap and when Threlfall came on for Alonso, Arbeloa ended up pairing Sami in the center of midfield should say enough. It’s not Reina having to play in midfield like last year, but it’s close.
Liverpool were partly hindered thanks to Torres, Babel, and Lucas Leiva, who was in line for his debut, all having to sit today’s game out as none had received international clearance. All three should be cleared for Friday’s match against Portsmouth. I imagine the difference between these three and Benayoun, who’s also a recent signing, was that Benayoun came from an English club. Gerrard also missed today’s game with an abdominal strain picked up in training, but he too should return for Friday.
Today’s win, Liverpool’s fifth of the preseason, also marks the fourth time in five games that Liverpool’s scored three goals, which is a far sight better than last season’s preseason performance. Riise nailed a trademark thunderbolt of a free kick, straight on and with the outside/toe of his foot in the 6th minute, while Alonso slotted home a penalty after it was his pretty throughball that led to Voronin being barged over twenty minutes later. Agger started and finished Liverpool’s third, and best, goal in the second half. He found Riise running forward on the left, and Riise’s cross found a wide open Kuyt, who unselfishly set it up for Agger to run onto and smash into the net. It was a very classy way to finish the scoring.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention South China’s lone goal, which was one of their few opportunities, as they were outclassed from start to finish, even with Liverpool lackadaisical at times. In fact, before the free kick was taken, it didn’t even look like and opportunity for a strike on goal being 35+ yards out, but Carson couldn’t keep out Haiqiang’s curling left footed strike. As much as I dislike linking opposition goals in the match report, it’s well worth watching the above link.
I thought Alonso was Liverpool’s best player today, although Voronin, who played the full 90, hustles an awful lot, has clever moments, and deserved a goal, is going to get his shouts as well and rightfully so. But Alonso was the fulcrum of all of Liverpool’s good play in the first half, made some absolutely superb passes, including the one to earn the penalty, and did his duty mopping up and stopping play in the middle with Sissoko.
And Momo, who was everywhere, is going to get a few mentions as well. And as Momo goes, those mentions are going to be both good and bad. Sissoko runs his socks off, rarely gives up on the ball, is as much of a defensive monster as ever, is improving his passing, and seems to be trying to do more in the final third of the pitch. However, he’s also too prone to breaking up Liverpool’s attack as much as the opposition’s, whether it’s a mazy run that unnecessarily ends with a poor touch or a misplaced pass to an open player. He’s trying to improve, and he is showing improvement, but I still can’t help but thinking he’s an offensive liability, no matter how excellent his tackling or motor is.
Others had good games as well today, which is reassuring, along with the fact that Liverpool ended with no injuries and performed well in a fairly raucous, if not hostile, atmosphere. I thought Pennant looked very lively after he came on, and he’s looked threatening in all of the preseason games, although he needs to have a better eye for and take more chances at goal. Riise got forward very well, put in some nice crosses, and well deserved his goal, the second free kick he’s scored in the four games.
It’s also worth noting that despite all the talk, including by me, of all of Liverpool’s new possibilities, and the likelihood of Benitez using a number of different formations, that Liverpool has played 4-4-2 (well, 4-4-1-1 if we’re truly playing this game), despite all the rotation of personnel. It’s probably a good thing that there will be consistent tactics/formations despite the number of players Liverpool has at its disposal so they can build some consistency, but admittedly, I’m more than a bit surprised that Benitez hasn’t experimented more.
So that’s five wins out of five, no injuries, and new and young players getting time to play with first team veterans. So far, it’s been a pretty successful preseason. Let’s hope it continues Friday against Portsmouth, which will again be on Setanta, coverage beginning at 8am.