Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners over Blackburn on Thursday evening and one set of players impressed rather more than the other.
Jurgen Klopp made a full 11 switches to his starting lineup once more, 10 at the break and then changing goalkeepers on the hour mark.
While all eyes were on Loris Karius at kickoff, by the end of the match it was somewhat apparent that attentions were on an altogether different goalkeeper, with Alisson‘s arrival imminent.
In-game, though, Klopp’s first-half XI struggled to assert themselves, before two goals after the break from Lazar Markovic and Daniel Sturridge gave the Reds another win.
Here’s a rundown on who impressed and who still has more to do this summer after the fourth pre-season game for Liverpool.
The first 45 minutes at Ewood Park won’t live long in the memory, even for a pre-season friendly.
In truth the Reds were second-best for the first half-hour, despite a missed penalty.
There was a real discord between midfield and attack, with few good touches in the final third and no service from deep.
Adam Lallana saw plenty of the ball, but either tiredness or ongoing rustiness saw him cede possession more often than not.
The No. 20 hit the bar and had another cleared off the line in a two-minute spell near the end of the half, but beforehand had slowed down the Reds’ attacking moves and continually misplaced passes.
One particularly frustrating turn to open play in the opposite direction left Divock Origi exasperated, having made a crossfield run into space.
Elsewhere Dominic Solanke didn’t have the best of halves again, though he did show a good turn of pace to win an early penalty.
Thereafter, he headed one chance over the bar and looked out-of-sorts playing from the left of the front three.
In defence, Alberto Moreno and Ragnar Klavan were both beaten too easily on a number of occasions and it’s fair to say it was a half of football most fans were happy to see the back of.
Stepping Up After the Break
It was a different matter in the second half, with even the lineup getting fans more excited—and doubtless a few choice words from the boss at the interval about picking up the tempo.
Fabinho looked extremely good on the ball at the base of midfield, with the Brazilian calm in possession and easily able to pick off the rare Blackburn counter-attacks.
It’ll still take time for him to be on the same wavelength as those further up the pitch, perhaps, but each encouraging performance from Fabinho makes the Reds’ new-look spine that much stronger.
Curtis Jones, just ahead of him, again showed plenty of neat touches, good close control and a willingness to work hard for the team.
He’ll surely see more game time for the seniors once they head Stateside, and a first-team debut this season isn’t out of the question for the 17-year-old.
Meanwhile, there was an impregnable and utterly assured display from Virgil van Dijk at the back.
It doesn’t really matter that it was against Blackburn, in this instance; no matter the location or the opposition, the Dutchman looks imperious and simply does the job—every job. Brilliantly.
Nat Phillips also impressed beside him; an invaluable experience for the young centre-back.
There’s no question who the star of the show was, with Naby Keita looking particularly dominant in midfield, but it was his direct linkup with Sturridge which really impressed.
Sturridge’s movement was superb throughout the half, not always looking to come deep this time but staying on the shoulder of the defender, ready to run in behind.
Three times he peeled off with intelligence, thrice Keita found him with well-timed passes.
Sturridge missed his first two efforts, but made no mistake with the third.
Should the striker hang around beyond the closure of the transfer window, those types of runs are made for Keita’s press-tackle-surge-pass approach.
Mo Salah and Sadio Mane will thrive off them with their in-from-out runs; if Sturridge is called upon with more regularity, so too will he.