Liverpool went down 4-3 to Hertha Berlin in Austria, but it was the returns of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez that made the headlines.
Liverpool 3-4 Hertha Berlin
Pre-Season Friendly; Tivoli Stadium, Innsbruck, Austria
Thursday, 29 July 2021
Mane 37′ (assist: Tsimikas)
Minamino 42′ (assist: Salah)
The Reds were playing in front of their biggest crowd since the pandemic, with 15,000 fans in attendance in the very scenic Tivoli Stadium in the Austrian Alps.
The lineup itself was almost identical to the side that started the last friendly against Mainz, with Takumi Minamino replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain upfront in the only change.
It was the subs bench that grabbed the headlines pre-match, with Van Dijk and Gomez involved for the first time on their long roads back from injury.
Harvey Elliott, again starting in the midfield three, enjoyed some neat play early on and Liverpool in general were playing at a higher tempo than the two previous friendlies so far this summer.
Chances though were lacking and the opening goal instead arrived for the German side.
An incoming cross from a free-kick, awarded after a sloppy foul by Kostas Tsimikas, was headed in at the back post with Coaimhim Kelleher failing to command his six-yard box and instead almost decapitating goalscorer Santiago Ascacibar.
And Hertha doubled their lead 10 minutes later when midfielder Suat Serdar made a driving run into the box and rifled an absolutely superb strike from a tight angle.
Liverpool may have been enjoying some possession and some tidy play, but they lacked a goal threat – though that changed in five minutes before the break.
Sadio Mane netted to reduce the deficit, eventually hitting home after the ball deflected off his hand following good reading of the play from Tsimikas down the left to create the opportunity.
Then Minamino slotted a confidence-boosting goal for him to finish off a nice move after Naby Keita dispossessed in midfield and Salah laid on the finish with a lovely backheel.
An entertaining opening half!
Half time: Liverpool 2-2 Hertha
- Minamino in for Ox up front
- Keita catches the eye again in midfield
- Van Dijk and Gomez play final 20 minutes on return
- Next friendly vs. Bologna next Thursday
Half time saw six changes, with Andy Robertson making his first appearance of pre-season.
Alexander-Arnold, Milner, Keita, Salah and Mane were the players to get 60 minutes under their belt. Diogo Jota was among the subs on the hour for his first outing of the summer.
The Reds started the second half very brightly and created plenty of chances, but it was the German side who re-took the lead against the run of play when Stevan Jovetic was given all the room six yards out to head past Adrian.
Two minutes after that poor defending, it was time for the long-awaited returns of Gomez and Van Dijk for the final 20 minutes. Their every touch was cheered.
But it was Van Dijk who was bundled off the ball impressively by Jota to slot home his second and double Hertha’s lead.
Oxlade-Chamberlain volleyed home shortly before full time after Van Dijk had shown his presence in the attacking box.
A first defeat of pre-season, but arguably the best performance and the returns of Van Dijk and Gomez made it a significantly positive day overall.
Liverpool now head to Evian in southern France, where they will play Italian side Bologna in two 60-minute games next Thursday.
Liverpool: Kelleher (Adrian 46′); Alexander-Arnold (N.Williams 61′), Konate (R.Williams 45′, Gomez 69′), Matip (Phillips 46′, Van Dijk 69′), Tsimikas (Robertson 46′); Milner (Clarkson 61′), Keita (Morton 61′), Elliott (Jones 46′); Mane (Jota 61′), Salah (Gordon 61′), Minamino (Oxlade-Chamberlain 46′)
Subs not used: H. Davies, Koumetio, Cain, Bradley, Beck
Next Match: Bologna – Thursday, 5 August, 3pm and 5pm (BST)