Johnson Carragher Ayala Insua
Ince Gerrard Shelvey Eccleston
Jovanovic for Dalla Valle 46'
Wilson for Carragher 46'
Aurelio for Insua 60'
Darby for Johnson 60'
Amoo for Ince 62'
Spearing for Gerrard 62'
Aquilani for Cole 65'
Gulasci for Cavalieri 68'
Irwin for Eccleston 78'
Sterling for Shelvey 84'
Suso for Jovanovic 89'
It was a very different side from the last two friendlies or the first Europa League qualifier, and it showed. But with so many changes, up against almost a full-strength Borussia Monchengladbach, concrete conclusions about players' performances are even less meaningful.
The first 30 minutes didn't make for pleasant viewing with Liverpool disjointed and harried, and an early mistake – Cavalieri putting Ayala under pressure by passing in his own area, with Ayala's heavy touch setting up Matmour for a tap-in – gifted German opposition a goal for the second-straight friendly. The away side found it hard to get control of the ball, with American Michael Bradley imperious in midfield while Gerrard and Shelvey, similar players to a certain extent, couldn't provide a protective shield.
Once again, Liverpool lined up in what's best described as a 4-4-1-1, and once again, it was worrying to see the lone striker so isolated. Gerrard and Cole looked to link up at every opportunity when Liverpool finally got a hold of the game, but Dalla Valle, inexperienced and not a physical presence, barely got a touch, while Eccleston and Ince did little from the flanks.
The second half changes – with Liverpool using every player on the bench – led to even more of a training session feel. The lone real opportunity for an equalizer didn't come until two minutes from time, with a clever Aquilani and Aurelio set play ending with an Amoo free header tamely hit into the ground and wide.
Today's negatives – a disjointed attack and lack of goal threat, Johnson frequently caught out of position, another defensive mistake – aren't worth dwelling on. Yes, I'm afraid Liverpool's won't be banging them in on a regular basis too, but it's preseason, and hopefully they'll look a lot more threatening with Torres, Kuyt, Maxi, and Babel (among others) available.
More important are the positives. I was most impressed with Shelvey, who looks a prototypical pass-and-move midfielder full of potential. Cole seemed desperate to impress, and already shows signs of combining well with Gerrard. Wilson played much older than his actual age, a heady center-back comfortable with the ball at his feet. Sterling and Suso, 15 and 16 respectively, both got a few minutes at the end of the match, with Sterling contributing a storming tackle reminiscent of Scholes (which unsurprisingly earned him a yellow). Aurelio's back in the fold and Insua somehow got 60 minutes – I'm afraid to assume the move to Fiorentina's fallen through, but that much time makes little sense if he's moving on when Aurelio, Darby, and Wilson were available. Fabio actually got the armband after Gerrard went off, making it four straight games where Liverpool's had a Brazilian captain. The globalization of sport in a nutshell...
Liverpool looked gash for much of the first two preseason matches before impressing against Rabotnicki. Ideally, that'll be the case again with the return leg this Thursday and a few of these players likely to have a role.