Kelly Kyrgiakos Ayala Darby
Amoo Lucas Spearing Jovanovic
Degen for Jovanovic 45'
Ince for Kelly 68'
Dalla Valle for Ngog 73'
Shelvey for Lucas 73'
Palsson for Spearing 76'
Irwin for Kyrgiakos 77'
Robinson for Eccleston 81'
A much more interesting spectacle than last Wednesday's friendly, but much more disappointing in many ways as well. And the result's not one of them.
The 4-4-2 formation seemed to show more attacking intent, ostensibly demonstrated by Ngog's chance 20 seconds in – taking advantage of a defensive mistake and cleverly turning the center-back before pushing a low left-footed shot wide of the far post. But Kaiserslautern responded immediately, with Route 1 football leading to a Nemec shot tipped over the crossbar by Cavalieri after Ayala dove in and missed the tackle. That basically set the tone for the day.
Eccleston and Amoo's pace threatened Kaiserslautern's high back-line at times, as on Wednesday, but Liverpool's inability to keep possession hindered any chance of manufacturing momentum. The 4-4-2 formation led to a vastly more open game, but Liverpool's midfield was bypassed time and time again, which was probably the biggest disappointment considering how steady and disciplined Lucas and Spearing usually are. You expect both, especially Lucas, to see a lot more time on the ball. Meanwhile, Jovanovic looked unsure of his role as an orthodox left winger, tentative in defense and not forward anywhere near as much as expected, but it was his debut and he did see a fair bit of World Cup action.
It was Ayala's second or third mistake that led to Kaiserslautern's 32nd minute goal, which probably wasn't the best way build on his man-of-the-match performance three days ago. Once again, he dove in for the tackle and, once again, he missed, allowing his man to get to the byline and center for a Mitsanski tap-in. The impetuousness of youth. We didn't see much of that in his appearances last season.
The goal dissipated what little steam Liverpool had created. Kaiserslautern were increasingly able to dictate terms, while delivering threatening crosses from Liverpool's left. Twice, Kelly was sucked into the center, and twice Liverpool could have been punished at the back post by better finishing.
The second half saw little different with Kaiserslautern happy to keep the lead. The second half changes changed little, other than Ince looking dangerous and Shelvey again showing potential. Besides Jovanovic coming off at half-time – no surprise given his participation in the World Cup – that Liverpool waited until the 68th minute to start making substantial substitutions probably shows that this was pretty close to what next Thursday's team will look like. And it was Ince that created Liverpool's only decent equalizing opportunity, cleverly beating the center-back to the outside before delivering a ball that was too wide to be a shot and too far in front of the on-rushing Eccleston to be a cross. The home side basically played the final 15 minutes in their own half, content to see out a win over Liverpool – even if it's just preseason – while the young Reds failed to put enough pressure on the opposition to disrupt the plan.
I'm well aware that preseason results are poor predictors for how the actual season will play out. Players who look like world beaters (cough Voronin cough) struggle to make any positive impact when it counts, etc. I'm also aware that Liverpool's still missing a full XI of first-team players. But this group will have a big say this season because of the squad's lack of depth, and it appears Liverpool will be reliant on at least the majority of them for Europa League progression. No matter the circumstances, we had hoped to see better from defense, midfield and attack, and we didn't. We also hoped to see at least one goal scored this preseason.
Five days until the trip to Macedonia.