Johnson Kelly San Jose Dossena
Kuyt Lucas Spearing Babel
Mascherano for Spearing 46’
Degen for Johnson 46’
Riera for Babel 46’
Plessis for Lucas 46’
Benayoun for Kuyt 46’
Gerrard for Voronin 62’
Torres for Ngog 62’
Insua for Dossena 62’
Ayala for San Jose 62’
Gulasci for Cavalieri 79’
Carragher for Riera 86’
I know everyone’s more interested in the Aquilani news. And, believe me, I’ll get to that later tonight or tomorrow morning, when I get my thoughts collected. But friendly fire first.
There really should have been more than a goal in the first half, with chances galore – most for Liverpool (and many of those from distance), but a notable blast off the post from Lyn Oslo on the break in the 37th and a couple of strong saves from Cavalieri. Voronin was the worst offender, over-intricate as usual, which, naturally, meant he scored the opener. It’s best he get those misses out of his system now anyway. After numerous opportunities, Babel gave him one he couldn’t miss – after a run from the right, the Dutchman delivered a cross that Voronin met with a diving header from a yard out. Finally.
Other than the annoying 'it's preseason, let's see if this backheel in traffic comes off' attack, the only thing worth mentioning was the Kuyt-Johnson pairing. We just saw glimpses of what’s possible, but that flank is going to be magic this season. M-a-g-i-c. I firmly believe that, and I don’t usually make such bold predictions (because it usually jinxes them).
The second half saw more of the same, with the pace unsurprisingly slower. Thankfully, we were treated to the solitary goal a little sooner, when Ngog tallied after a nice run and cutback from Dossena (in possession thanks to a superb long ball from Mascherano), redirecting the Italian’s pass with his knee from six yards.
The changes around the hour mark saw Liverpool alter the formation: an unbalanced 4-1-4-1 with Plessis dropping to centerback (paired with Ayala), Degen moving into right midfield, and both Benayoun and Gerrard floating centrally behind Torres, with Gerrard usually dropping a little deeper to pivot between the lines. A sign of things to come with Aquilani?
Mascherano was dominant in the holding role, tackling everything that moved, while Degen was better in a more advanced position (frequently the furthest player forward). I was impressed with Kelly at right back, who also nearly broke his duck, just wide from the top of the box after staying forward following an attacking foray in the 75th.
Some of the gloss was taken off in the 84th thanks to Oslo’s greasy pitch. Riera lost his footing trying to put a cross in, and had to be taken off on a stretcher. Benitez seemed optimistic that he just twisted it. Please don’t let it be ligaments.
So, goals from the back-up strikers. A decent run-out for the first-teamers (with a couple of honestly “good” performances). A desire to impress from the youngsters and reserves, with Kelly deservedly named the official site’s man-of-the-match. No injury concerns other than Riera, and players actually looked fitter than in previous friendlies. As always in preseason, that’ll do.
The last of these “matches” is Saturday against Atletico Madrid, on FSC at 10am eastern.