The media praised a host of players in Liverpool’s 3-1 pre-season win over Bradford, but it was events off the field which captured their hearts and minds.
Merely three days after the Reds kickstarted their pre-season with a 6-0 win over Tranmere, Jurgen Klopp’s side were back in action—this time against Bradford City.
And while it was a pre-season friendly like all which have come before it throughout the 90 minutes of play, the meeting of the two sides had greater meaning than simply a warmup for the season ahead.
The game provided an invaluable opportunity to raise awareness for the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, a charity formed by ex-Reds and Bradford defender Stephen Darby following his motor neurone disease diagnosis last year.
Here’s how the media reacted to both the game and the significance of the two teams’ meeting.
Journalists praised a number of the Reds’ youngsters after seizing the opportunity to impress…
After landing himself on the scoresheet for the third time in two games, Brewster was again the name on everyone’s lips.
ESPN’s Melissa Reddy thought the 19-year-old was “brilliant” and again left nothing to chance in his bid to impress the manager:
“Brewster’s intention to prove he has all the tools to thrive in attack under Jurgen Klopp was underlined in another impressive preseason display.
“Brilliant off the ball and a constant nuisance to the opposition defence.”
Writing for the Mail, Dominic King was eager not to set lofty expectations for Brewster, but was firm in the belief that the forward’s “impeccable” attitude will be key to his future success:
“It would make no sense to start making bold predictions about what Brewster may achieve in the next 12 months but one thing that can be said for certain is his attitude has been impeccable.
“If he maintains this hunger and desire, he will have the possibility to score goals in the Premier League.”
Similarly impressed by Brewster’s qualities was This Is Anfield’s Karl Matchett, who feels he has all the “key traits” any top forward possesses.
There was also praise for Curtis Jones after proving to be one of the Reds’ brightest sparks in what was otherwise a dull second half:
“The link play Brewster possesses is very impressive, combining good vision with selfless use of the ball and a willingness to play the simple, but important, quick balls at the right time.
“He shines with the key traits: good movement, clinical finishing, following in other players’ shots.
“[Jones’] running into the channels was constant and intelligent, his strength to hold up play was good and as usual his trademark close control and dribbling ability opened up plenty of avenues for the Reds.”
“[Hoever] looked poised, calm and pacy in the stroll at Bradford and is clearly the next quality defender off Liverpool’s production line.”
The media both admired and questioned the performances and roles of Liverpool’s senior players…
The Reds’ most experienced player in Milner was key to setting up the victory on Sunday afternoon, after first dispatching a thumping strike which was deflected into the back of the net, before slotting home a penalty two minutes later.
And after again dominating the midfield battle, King was left in “no doubt” that he will prove to vital to Liverpool’s success in 2019/20 and beyond:
“There is no doubt he will be an integral figure once again in the new campaign.
“He has now entered the final 12 months of his contract—surely Liverpool will address that.”
The Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle, meanwhile, thought Lovren was “understandably” rusty on his return:
“Understandably, he looked a little rusty playing alongside Nat Phillips here and was guilty of his one occasional failing of impatiently making unnecessary challenges.”
“He’s probably not physically strong or defensively aware enough to hack it regularly.”
Conversely, King was of the view that, while the England international’s positioning has proved “intriguing,” Lallana could end up being a “valuable option” in the role across a congested season:
“[Lallana] has not lost his ability and it has been intriguing to see Jurgen Klopp use him in the No. 6 position in this opening week.
“He is a versatile and intelligent footballer and if Liverpool play 60 games this season, as they hope, Klopp will need all possible options.”
But it was the occasion, rather than the football itself, which mattered most for a number of reporters…
For Whittell, Liverpool’s bid to raise awareness and Milner’s incredible gesture were two of the most important talking points from the occasion:
“All available first-teamers enjoyed a run-out but, more importantly, Liverpool also took part in social media campaigns in a bid to raise awareness.
“To underline the point, James Milner’s own foundation donated £40,000 to the charities who were benefitting from the events.”
Similarly, King felt the “significance” extended beyond the field of play as two clubs united for one cause:
“Bradford hosting Liverpool was essentially a friendly but this game had a far greater significance. This was two clubs coming together to help support Stephen Darby, the unyielding right-back who represented them both.”
And while Liverpool.com’s Kristian Walsh commended the intense nature of the game, “nothing” mattered more than two clubs and their fans uniting behind one of their former players in Darby and the fight against motor neurone disease:
“Liverpool won 3-1 but this was no stroll, no charity game, even if the gulf between the two sides was obviously vast.
“Today, 24,343 supporters of Bradford, Liverpool and Stephen Darby attended at Valley Parade—the highest attendance since the stadium reopened in 1986. Nothing could possibly matter more than that.”