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Liverpool 3-1 Athletic Bilbao: Reds youngsters shine to seal final pre-season victory

Liverpool rounded off a productive pre-season with a 3-1 victory over Liga side Athletic Bilbao at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.

Liverpool 3-1 Athletic Bilbao

Pre-Season Friendly, Aviva Stadium
August 5, 2017


Firmino 21′ (pen)
Williams 30′
Woodburn 59′ (assist – Solanke)
Solanke 80′ (assist – Klavan)

After a lengthy pre-season that saw trips to Tranmere, Wigan, Hong Kong, Berlin and Munich, Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds flew to Dublin for their final summer friendly.

Taking on a Bilbao side including former midfielder Mikel San Jose, Liverpool were prepared for a tough test at the Aviva, magnified by a host of key absences.

Klopp was still able to name the likes of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in his starting lineup, however, while James Milner was a surprise inclusion in the middle of the park.

Looking for their sixth win out of eight in pre-season, the Reds took to the field with a steely focus, and eventually made their dominance count.

DUBLIN, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND - Saturday, August 5, 2017: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino scores the first goal from a penalty kick during a preseason friendly match between Athletic Club Bilbao and Liverpool at the Aviva Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • Milner starts in midfield as Klopp shuffles pack
  • Firmino wins and nets penalty on 20-minute mark
  • Williams levels score after Liverpool’s defensive lapse
  • Klopp makes 10 changes at half-time, only Mignolet retained
  • Woodburn puts Reds back in front with brilliant strike
  • Solanke wraps up final pre-season victory with late header

After a rousing rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone at the Aviva, the Reds took control early on, and Emre Can could have threaded Salah through within two minutes after picking up a loose ball, but opted for the wrong pass.

Salah was involved in an excellent move as Joel Matip found Firmino in attack, but Divock Origi, finding himself on the end of the resulting through ball, somehow skewed wide.

Origi then spurned another fine opportunity with Salah standing the ball up at the far post, with the Belgian inexplicably heading wide of the post.

The strength and skill of Firmino saw the No. 9 brought down in the penalty area, before dusting himself off and powering home into the bottom left-hand corner.

Another mistake from Origi saw the striker concede possession on the halfway line, with the ball quickly sent through for Inaki Williams, who slotted past Simon Mignolet to make it 1-1.

Bilbao gained a foothold after Williams’ strike, but the first half ended all square in Dublin.

DUBLIN, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND - Saturday, August 5, 2017: Liverpool's Ben Woodburn celebrates scoring the second goal during a preseason friendly match between Athletic Club Bilbao and Liverpool at the Aviva Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After the rigours of the Audi Cup in midweek, Klopp opted to make 10 changes at half-time, with only Mignolet keeping his place on the field and Jon Flanagan taking the captain’s armband.

This saw Georginio Wijnaldum take up duties in the No. 6 role, with Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn roving in midfield, while Sadio Mane and Ryan Kent flanked Dominic Solanke up front.

It was Kent and Mane who combined for Liverpool’s first opportunity of the second half, with the former’s looping cross deflected into the path of the latter, whose strike from point-blank range drew a fine save.

Their attacking colleague, Solanke, laid on the Reds’ second of the evening, with the summer arrival cutting the ball back for Woodburn, who fired an emphatic strike home with his left foot.

Liverpool continued to dominate throughout the second half, and Solanke added their third with an brilliant header from close range, converting Ragnar Klavan‘s perfectly weighted cross.

With the final whistle blowing at the Aviva, Klopp will have been encouraged by his side’s display as they head into a crucial 2017/18 campaign.

TIA Man of the Match: Dominic Solanke

Liverpool: Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold (Flanagan 46′), Matip (Gomez 46′), Lovren (Klavan 46′), Moreno (Robertson 46′); Can (Wijnaldum 46′), Milner (Ejaria 46′), Grujic (Woodburn 46′); Salah (Mane 46′), Firmino (Kent 46′), Origi (Solanke 46′)

Subs not used: Karius, Ward

Athletic Bilbao: Arrizabalaga; Boveda, Nunez, Lekue (Villalibre 69′), Saborit; San Jose, Rico (De Marcos 69′), Aketxe (Sola 85′); Williams (Benat 69′), Merino, Cordoba (Balenziaga 85′)

Subs not used: Herrerin, Etxeita, Vesga

Next match: Watford (A) – Premier League – August 12

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