Liverpool’s group stage campaign came to a largely irrelevant end with a 2-1 Europa League loss to Union, with a much-changed and youthful lineup getting their chance to impress.
Union SG 2-1 Liverpool
Europa League (6), Lotto Park
December 14, 2023
Goals: Amoura 32′, Puertas 43′; Quansah 39′
Caoimhin Kelleher – 7 (out of 10)
Looked pretty solid in the early stages but both first-half goals will disappoint the Irishman. One went around him with a wrist not quite strong enough to stop the ball, while the second was a simple near-post strike – well hit, but still not one he’d enjoy conceding.
Decent aerial claims and one brilliant one-on-one stop very early on with his foot. Beaten by one shot to his left which was ruled out, then saved another to the same side and a late swerver high to his right.
Conor Bradley – 5
Pretty much a learning curve of a night on the defensive side, especially considering it was a long-awaited return to senior action with the club, with his last Reds start coming in 21/22.
Booked for one poor tackle and lost both possession and his man a number of times, but also got forward on the overlap when he could.
Ibrahima Konate – 5
Looks somewhat undercooked at present, big Ibou. Not his usual imperious self, even in straight-up foot-races such as for the second goal in the channel.
Only played 45 minutes as he’ll naturally be needed for league action now with Joel Matip out for the season.
Jarell Quansah – 7 – Man of the Match
This time his first Liverpool senior goal sticks! After one ruled out earlier in the group stage, Quansah hit this one just as hard, found the net again – and it counted this time.
Earlier had one or two issues with runners in the channels, including for the goal, which again shows the value of playing beside a more vocal partner for young defenders.
But thereafter was pretty solid, a mouthy fella at times it appeared, while he won his share of headers and blocked a few attempted runs through.
Luke Chambers – 5
Similar to Bradley but perhaps marginally less-impressive. Caught often with simple balls inside and lost a few challenges; more worryingly he looked extremely slow on the turn or attempting to run back into position.
Perhaps that was a mix of the bad pitch and some early adrenaline needing to be gotten rid of. Might have hoped to create a bit more of an impression.
Wataru Endo – 6
Another who only played the first half, with eyes on the upcoming domestic tasks and Alexis Mac Allister definitely out for the weekend.
Caught in possession once or twice and lost a tackle in the lead-up to the opening goal, but who cares. Avoiding injury was the only job to do here.
Harvey Elliott – 7
Along with Endo, the only two players in the Reds’ squad to start every Europa League group stage match.
Plenty of hard work and probably the best on the ball in midfield for the team, but unable to really get much going into the final third. We’ll take the run-out, the minutes in his legs and a bit of rhythm, as he’s been one of our more-impressive performers off the bench domestically.
Also looked much more involved and threatening when he was able to get forward to the right wing area at times.
Curtis Jones – 6
Captain from the start. Was one of the few who could control the ball on a pitch which looked like it had gone through a cement mixer shortly before kick-off.
However with his good positional play and one-touch game also came a sense of increased need to do things himself, which led to him losing possession in the lead up to Union’s first.
Kaide Gordon – 6
After four appearances in 2021/22, a year and a half of injury hell followed for the young forward.
Tonight’s return to action was his reward for overcoming that, with performance level an obvious low priority behind fitness, game time and a bit of confidence.
One or two dribbles served as a reminder of his talents and he’ll no doubt see more action in the coming weeks.
Ben Doak – 6
Played on the left, which is a rarity at senior level for him. One or two early sprint sessions and attempts to cut infield, but the pitch was a bog down his side and there was no real service or support for him in fairness.
Cody Gakpo – 4
The most lightweight 6-foot-3 forward on the planet, surely. Doesn’t use his bulk in the slightest, is way too easily knocked off-kilter and holds up nothing at all.
In truth, the Dutchman has been fairly poor for most of this season and looks a long way off a starting calibre option right now.
Perhaps his heart just wasn’t in a match which matters precisely zero but we need him to do better.
Joe Gomez (on for Konate, 46′) – 7 – Captain for the second half at centre-back. Won a few headers and some good recovery pace when needed.
Ryan Gravenberch (on for Endo, 46′) – 6 – Didn’t see too much of the ball but a nice winter’s evening run-out all the same. One fierce shot saved.
Calum Scanlon (on for Chambers, 62′) – 6 – Slightly more energetic than Chambers perhaps and no big troubles one-on-one.
Darwin Nunez (on for Doak, 62′) – 6 – Made a few runs into the channel but didn’t get a shot away.
James McConnell (on for Gordon, 75′) – n/a – A few more minutes in the bag and his longest appearance of three so far.
Subs not used: Pitaluga, Mrozek, Tsimikas, Hill, Szoboszlai, Koumas, Diaz
Jurgen Klopp – 9
The boss rang the changes to rotate a total of nine for this dead rubber – a fine decision in the eyes of pretty much every Liverpool fan, with games against Man United and Arsenal on the horizon sandwiching a League Cup quarter-final clash with West Ham.
As such, the likes of Trent, Virgil, Alisson and Salah were all given a total leave of absence – while a few squad players needing minutes were the only seniors on show from the start. For a match which mattered absolutely nothing with top spot already achieved, that’s exactly as it should have been.
Plenty of youngsters got a chance, both a confidence-booster for them and an opportunity to see them in senior competitive action for the coaches.
Not a full ten out of ten night as the boss didn’t manage to lead us to a victory, but it barely matters. The right choices were made with the teamsheet, no more injuries were picked up and now it’s back on to far more relevant matters.
Lots of pre-planned subs, ensuring as little chance to impact the future that really matters. No new injuries is all that matters.