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Mo & Bobby sharp, full-back auditions & Reds back on form – 5 talking points from Liverpool 3-1 Lyon

Liverpool’s final pre-season friendly of the summer ended in victory as they came from behind to beat French side Lyon 3-1 in Geneva.

Liverpool 3-1 Lyon

Pre-Season Friendly (7), Stade de Geneve
July 31, 2019

Goals: Firmino 17′, Andersen OG 21′, Wilson 53′; Memphis pen 4′

The Fitness of Five

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Wednesday, July 31, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Olympique Lyonnais at Stade de Genève. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool finally have a (nearly) full-strength side to pick from, with just Sadio Mane remaining absent.

The game against Lyon gave Jurgen Klopp the chance to field five seniors for the first time: Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita after injury and Alisson, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah after extended breaks.

Aside from the brilliant sight of seeing each of them in the beautiful red once more, it was largely positive from each in terms of movement and on-the-ball work, despite less than a week’s training.

A quick roundup of each:

Firmino: Good movement, his trademark hard work, some nice link play and very good first touches…and a quite brilliant goal. A low, drilled shot on the turn to equalise and Bobby looked very sharp.

Salah: Eager to get shots away whenever possible and dribbled infield with regularity. Speed and agility was there; close control somewhat less so. Missed out on a couple of one-on-ones but smiling and fit.

Shaqiri: Out of his usual position in an offensive midfield role, so it was mostly a case of running, off-the-ball movement and a few nice passes from deep.

Keita: Was lacking a certain first touch but was energetic. Some nice fouls to show his aggression. Big season ahead for our No. 8, but will likely have to bide his time to start with.

Alisson: Showed admirable intent to prove he’s just another part of the defensive group by following their pre-season lead: a mistake inside two minutes to gift a goal. Thereafter, clean with footwork and handling alike.


Full-Back Auditions

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Wednesday, July 31, 2019: Liverpool's Ki-Jana Hoever during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Olympique Lyonnais at Stade de Genève. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The question of full-back cover is still to be answered and this game was, effectively, an audition to assess the readiness of two youngsters.

As such, the best sight of the first half might have been Ki-Jana Hoever getting forward to good effect.

Even before the Reds’ second goal which he had such a big hand in, he had overlapped Salah a couple of times, looking to get early crosses in.

Just after the 20-minute mark he again found space down that flank and delivered a fine ball into a dangerous area—and a mis-hit attempted clearance ended up in the back of the net.

It stands as an assist for Hoever; precisely what’s required from the full-backs.

One clever pass between three defenders found Salah for a shooting chance and his pace and intelligence on the ball were very much in evidence.

This was, all things considered, a very good display against what might be termed a good quality team, the sort the Reds will face on a regular basis.

Yasser Larouci made a welcome return to fitness after essentially being booted back across the Atlantic.

His driving runs weren’t quite as effective, but the trust immediately placed in him again by the boss was significant.


Wilson and Gomez Stake Their Claims

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Wednesday, July 31, 2019: Liverpool's Harry Wilson celebrates scoring the third goal with team-mate Adam Lallana (L) during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Olympique Lyonnais at Stade de Genève. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Two players really did impress outside of the usual first XI: Joe Gomez in defence and Harry Wilson in attack.

The central defender would have remained first choice, no doubt, if not for injury last year—but he’s doing his best to show he deserves consideration as soon as an opening arises.

Definitely one of the best in the league at centre-back and definitely not one of the best at right-back, so that’s his future sorted, please and thank you.

As for Wilson, he swapped over to the left side and it was intriguing to see him try to offer his usual best traits while not cutting infield on his favoured foot.

His movement was good and pace was on show, but it was the quick, simple passing which made him effective.

One or two good darts forward gave him chances in the first half, then he found space centrally once or twice to launch his trademark rockets from range. And almost took the net off with one.

Maybe Liverpool’s best goal of pre-season was the very last one scored?


Teenage Kicks

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Wednesday, July 31, 2019: Liverpool's Rhian Brewster during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Olympique Lyonnais at Stade de Genève. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In case you hadn’t noticed, this team has a lot of talented youngsters pushing for involvement.

Even with several jettisoned after the US tour, the Reds were able to field a veritable platoon of those who are too young to drive in the UK and drink alcohol in the States.

Hoever, Larouci, Rhian Brewster, Adam Lewis, Bobby Duncan, Harvey Elliott and Sepp van den Berg: Liverpool fielded seven teenagers altogether, as well as, of course, the actual seniors.

They all impressed and played their part to one extent or another and all should take confidence from being involved at this point, just a few days before the season starts.

Loan moves, unimpressive performances, lacking fitness or mentality—any of these circumstances would have seen them left aside to develop further before attempting the step-up once more.

But these players can head into 2019/20 firm in the knowledge that they are in Klopp’s thoughts and will get the chance to shine if they continue to progress, improve and force the manager’s hand when the opportunity to play comes along.


Real Action Around the Corner

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Wednesday, July 31, 2019: Liverpool's players line-up for a team group photograph before a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Olympique Lyonnais at Stade de Genève. Front row L-R: captain Dejan Lovren, goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Yasser Larouci, Joe Gomez, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah. Front row L-R: Adam Lallana, Ki-Jana Hoever, Naby Keita, Harry Wilson, Xherdan Shaqiri. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A clutch of players with another hour or so on the pitch, a return to action for several key first-teamers and a win, with good tempo and several chances, to wrap up pre-season with.

If there were any slightly panicking fans worried at the performance levels, this one should assuage most fears.

Now it’s onto the real action, the games which matter, the fixtures where conclusions will be drawn the other way around: results are everything and poor performances can be excused, if the points (or trophies) roll in.

It’s Man City, Wembley and the Community Shield next up; a trophy to be won and a marker to be laid down.

Of course, if it doesn’t go to plan, it’s still only a pre-season friendly…

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