Johnson Carragher San Jose Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun
Babel for Benayoun 46’
Dossena for Insua 46’
Degen for Johnson 46’
Spearing for Mascherano 46’
Plessis for Lucas 70’
Riera for Kuyt 70’
Ngog for Torres 70’
Voronin for Gerrard 70’
Kelly for Carragher 83’
Alonso for Spearing 83’
Luis Garcia 19’
Sahar 64’ 87’
Meh. ‘It’s only preseason. It’s only preseason.’
And to be fair, it was a fairly typical preseason game, even though the scoreline actually could have been worse. There were some decent moments despite Liverpool rarely leaving first gear, but there was a lot that could worry. And the fact that it was a fairly strong line-up, with only San Jose an unfamiliar first-team face, makes me contemplate worrying. But, it’s preseason. Just keep repeating that.
Espanyol were up for it as well, christening their new stadium. It didn’t look like a preseason friendly from their end, stifling Liverpool’s attack and keeping possession quite nicely. And they’ve just begun their preseason campaign.
A 2nd minute low drive smothered by Reina set the tone, but had either of Gerrard’s thunderbolts off the goal frame gone in, we might have had a different result. But he caromed a trademark blast from distance off the crossbar in the 19th, and ricocheted a free kick off the far post in the 27th. And in between, Luis Garcia scored seconds after Gerrard’s first chance, turning on a Nakamura throughball perfectly, beating the centerbacks and then Reina.
From there, I’m struggling to come up with any Liverpool attacks worth describing. Before the half closed, Espanyol should have stretched the lead in the 41st when Tamudo had a goal dubiously chalked off when the linesman flagged for offside.
The second 45 saw a lot of changes, which served to stifle an already niggly game mainly played in midfield. Liverpool’s best chance of the half came when Degen got the ball in the box, only to see Pareja make a nice block in the 60th. And four minutes later, the right back was responsible for blowing the offside trap, allowing Ben Sahar in behind to slot through Reina’s legs.
There were only three other incidents of note: Sahar’s second goal in the 87th, after a careless giveaway in midfield, San Jose getting turned, and three defenders unable to clear, with the ball falling to the former Chelsea man for an easy tap in; Sahar's chance for a hat-trick denied by a San Jose clearance off the line (after Degen again blew the offside trap) two minutes later; and Alonso actually entering the game – for Spearing, who had come on at halftime – for a seven-minute cameo.
Obviously, given my ambivalence to the final scoreline, I’m most concerned with Alonso’s participation of those three incidents. If anything, it’s just going to stoke the rumors that he’s on his way out. While the majority of the first team played the first half, he came out as the last sub for an inconsequential run-out. Which makes little sense to me. Super.
As performances go, Gerrard had some dangerous moments in the first half, Carragher had some usual imperious clearances in defense, and Benayoun and Insua linked well at times. I can’t go without mentioning Lucas after yesterday’s post, and he seemed fairly par for the course as well: he looked to make short, incisive passes and move forward, was often in the “right” position, cleaned up adequately, but also made a couple of silly and reckless tackles. San Jose had a difficult night, but that’s a good learning experience given how tough an opponent Espanyol turned out to be. And while I’d rather not focus on it, let’s just say that Degen didn’t do anything to improve my opinion of him.
I’m not going to lose any sleep over the result, and I doubt the team will either. And having to play an opposition actually up for it at this stage, and losing by three goals in the process, will hopefully be a good thing. Not only was it a good workout (and with no injuries!), but maybe, even though it’s only August 2, it’ll give the players a bit of motivation going into the real campaign.