Flanagan Carragher Agger Robinson
Spearing Coady Adam
Kelly Kyrgiakos Wilson Insua
Kuyt Aquilani Maxi
- Hansen for Gulasci 69'
Adam 27' (pen)
Ngog 68' 70'
Maxi 75' 90+1
Safee 79' 82'
Liverpool made sure to entertain on its Far East trip, scoring 10 while conceding six in its two Asian preseason games. Adam tallied his first for the club, Ngog and Maxi both notched for the second-straight match, and Aquilani ran the show after coming on for the second half.
The first half line-up seemingly attempted to be 4-3-3, with Spearing-Coady-Adam forming an effective triangle in midfield, but Cole and Meireles were both too far removed from Carroll and far too wasteful for the formation to truly work.
Liverpool had a near monopoly on the ball, patiently building from the back with Adam in a starring, tempo-settling role, but either of Liverpool's "wingers" would summarily lose possession before truly threatening the Malaysian goal. Midway through the frame, Adam's dangerous deep cross won a soft penalty, with Carroll seemingly pushed by a defender, and the new boy notched both spot kicks after having to retake the first for a supposed encroachment.
But with Liverpool unable to turn possession into more goals, as they did in Guangzhou, Malaysia equalized three minutes before intermission after Adam handled, conceding a free kick 22 yards from goal. Both the wall and Brad Jones' positioning were questionable (read: terrible), but Safiq Rahim's unstoppable blast wasn't.
Again, halftime saw wholesale changes and a completely different XI, similar to the first half against Guangdong – a more orthodox 4-2-3-1 with Ngog up top. Shelvey, holding central midfield with Poulsen, and Aquilani, behind Ngog, were the creative axis, passing their way through the Malaysia midfield time and time again after taking 15 or so minutes to settle.
Ngog took Liverpool from 1-1 to 3-1 in the space of two minutes, first scoring after Insua's cross luckily pinballed around the penalty area for an easy tap-in, then blasting a sweet 18-yard shot past the keeper after Aquilani cleverly found him. Five minutes later, Liverpool had four for the second straight match, again set up by the Italian, who found an open Insua in space with time to send in a low cross for the on-rushing Maxi.
The collapse came earlier than on Wednesday, as Malaysia reduced arrears to 4-3 with goals from Safee in the 79th and 82nd. Hansen was at fault for the first, palming a cutback from the byline to Safee's feet; Wilson was at fault for the second, allowing Safee in behind to run onto Ismail's long-range throughball. The extra time after Liverpool's cheap concessions allowed the visitors time to add even more emphasis to the score, with Maxi's second in the 91st and Kuyt's capstone with the last kick of the game in the 94th.
Once again, there were more positives than negatives, a somewhat-unusual occurrence in Liverpool preseason friendlies. Aquilani, Adam, Shelvey, Spearing, and Kuyt all played well, Ngog and Maxi scored again, Carroll worked diligently in holding up play, and the young fullbacks again showed their clear promise. Cole and Meireles disappointed (as did Hansen in again conceding twice in less than half an hour of action), but I'm tempted to attribute the latter to being shoehorned into an unfamiliar position across from the black hole that is Joe Cole.
The most ink will be spilled over Liverpool's misfit toys: Aquilani was the star of the show, again getting a shout-out from FSG's John Henry, while Insua assisted two of Liverpool's five second half goals. Neither is guaranteed to be on Merseyside come August, but neither did their cause any harm, especially the purposeful Italian.
Liverpool have a week off before the next friendly, back on British shores against Hull City.
FYI: I'll be away for the next four or five days, most likely without internet until Tuesday or Wednesday. Thankfully, Downing and Doni have been signed, so chances are I won't miss anything massive. But if something notable comes up, I'm sure Ed and Noel at Liverpool Offside will eloquently and thoroughly opine on it.
You kids play nice while I'm gone. Don't try to set the babysitter on fire like last time.