Tom Burchill reviews last night’s game that saw Jürgen Klopp field a different starting eleven in each half as Liverpool dominated local conference side Tranmere Rovers 4-0.
A short trip under the Mersey marked Liverpool FC’s return to Prenton Park to face Birkenhead based outfit Tranmere Rovers. After scraping past them 1-0 in last year’s pre-season friendly thanks to Danny Ings breaking the deadlock at 79 minutes the Reds were ready to show the non-league side what they could do.
Unfortunately for Tranmere fans, who last time out saw their side miss out on the football league in the Wembley playoff final, last night was another night of pain. Their first trip back saw a sharp Premier League outfit highlight the difference in class.
First half XI: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lucas, Milner, Henderson, Grujic, Wijnaldum, Ojo, Firmino, Sturridge
Liverpool lined up in a 4-3-3 formation and controlled the first half without question. The side they fielded contained more of their starting eleven and so expectations were high. The Reds almost went 1-0 up in the first minute when Shey Ojo beat the keeper but was unable to hit the target.
Jöel Matip also had the opportunity to score when a flick from Lucas Leiva saw the Cameroonian’s volley blazed over the bar from 6 yards out.
Despite the score being 0-0 half an hour in, the game was definitely in Liverpool’s hands. Alexander-Arnold looked sharp as he rushed into space up the right wing and his crosses were considerably better than his left wing counterpart James Milner.
At 32 minutes, Tranmere’s goalkeeper Scott Davies brought down Shey Ojo in the box for which a penalty was awarded. Milner was trusted with the spot kick and was sure to bury it in the bottom corner.
Marko Grujic, whose header against Barcelona last pre-season was second to none, was next to find the net. Just like last pre-season’s antics, it was not one to miss as the Serbian beat Davies from 30 yards with a curling effort.
Roberto Firmino was incredible throughout.
Second half XI: Karius, Clyne, Gomez, Klavan, Flanagan, Stewart, Chirivella, Woodburn, Markovic, Kent, Solanke
Ten changes at half time saw the match day’s B team field the pitch. While they are definitely the weaker of the two teams on paper, if you had just tuned in you wouldn’t have guessed it.
New signing Dominic Solanke led the line and came close to an early conversion but a Davies parry left Chirivella with an easy finish to make it 3-0.
After the hour mark the game slowed in pace as the off season’s reduction in fitness became more apparent. Both Jürgen Klopp and Micky Mellon took this opportunity to bring on reserve goalkeepers with Liverpool turning to 18 year old Kamil Grabara.
It looked at one stage like Grabara might be tested as Tranmere won a free kick outside of the box but ex-red Jack Dunn’s effort sailed wide of the post.
A late burst of energy saw Kent play Woodburn through on goal who was clattered down in the box for another penalty. Woodburn opted to take the penalty and converted in front of Prenton Park’s Kop which roared for the reds.
Overall it was a fantastic performance. While it may not be a great indication of how our season will pan out given the opposition were four tiers below it was great to see the boys turn out.
What was particularly refreshing to see that we do have young talent in the club in the form of Shey Ojo (2 assists), Ben Woodburn, Marko Grujic and new boy Solanke (1 assist) who may make his full debut soon.
One player looked like he was closer to breaking through than the others – Alexander-Arnold. The 18 year old local talent looked more confident on the ball than our own Nathaniel Clyne and he provided more going forwards. My only reservation would be his size but that is something that can be worked on over the course of this season.
The negatives of the night were few but not everybody shone. Lazar Markovic proved again that he simply is not good enough for Liverpool and he should most certainly be sold this summer.
Another apparent issue was James Milner at left back who even though he scored did not have a great performance. It’s not just the fact he has to cut onto his right foot to cross it’s the fact that nothing materialises from the cross.
All in all a good result. Next stop Wigan this Friday for a game that should prove to be slightly more challenging.
Man of the match without question: Trent Alexander-Arnold