Malaysia XI 3: Rahim 40', Mohd Sali 79' 80'
Charlie Adam gets his first goal in Liverpool shirt, David Ngog and Maxi get two a piece, and Liverpool wrap up their Asian tour with a victory in front of 80,000 fans at Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lampur. Preseason tours are as much about getting the squad up and running as they are about extending a hand to supporters across the globe, and you'd have to say that Liverpool were a success on both fronts.
Full disclosure: I was unable to catch the match live due to a faulty internet connection and alcohol-induced apathy---around an hour before match time I realized nothing was loading and my internet connection was gone, so I've spent most of the morning watching the highlights that are available and forming some half-cooked thoughts about where things go from here.
nate at Oh You Beauty did see the match, and typically has the best recaps around (which you probably already know), so go check that out after you're done slumming it here.
For those in a similar spot, or if you just chose to sleep like any normal person, the highlights:
Some thoughts from what I've been able to see:
* The starting eleven was a few names away from being one that could have finished last season; only Conor Coady and Charlie Adam didn't get first-team minutes last season, with the former only making the bench in a few senior squad matches and the latter, you know, not on the team. Good to see Raul Meireles back in action as well, and from the few clips I saw it looked like he gained in confidence as the half progressed. The news about his injury was a bit of a surprise, so a tentative beginning could be excused.
Outside of Charlie Adam's well-taken penalty, though, it looked like Liverpool were sorely lacking for ideas in the first half, which PDubz outlined in the comments of the matchday thread:
"First half was awful and frighteningly reminiscent of Roy Hodgson's sides. On the other side of the coin, Carroll being in the side wasn't the problem."
* The second half saw Liverpool score five of their six goals and wholesale changes, with Emiliano Insua making his Liverpool return. We couldn't have been more against his departure last summer, and even though it's preseason etc. etc., he turned in a quality display at left back. What that means for him and the club is still unclear, but with Damien Comolli announcing that the club had done "most" of the business they wanted to, it wouldn't be entirely surprising to see him stay.
It's easy to forget that he's still relatively young and, despite his struggles in the second half of the 2009-2010 season, he was a solid contributor. "Mostly reliable" probably isn't going to cut it in a side that wants to challenge for the Premier League title, but Insua's also not a teenager, and likely wouldn't be in a position (yet) where he'd be forced into action that he's not ready for on a daily basis. And with Fabio Aurelio or Glen Johnson as the frontline left back (assuming four at the back, which may or may not be a concrete assumption), as well as Jack Robinson working his way through the ranks, I think Insua would have a chance to make an impact.
* Only two preseason matches gone and already folks are banging the "he's not physical enough for English football" drum about Alberto Aquilani, who was classy and composed every time I caught a glimpse of him. Apparently classy and composed aren't enough, though, and Aquilani's unsuited to the Premier League and can't get stuck in and tackle like a ginger kamikaze.
When he got consistent time towards the end of the 2009-2010 season, we saw him excel as one of Liverpool's most impactful creative forces. Unfortunately those performances weren't enough to convince those who had already pronounced him to be the biggest bust of the season, and his loan move to Juventus looked to be a natural fit for a player who was deemed too soft for the only acceptable brand of football on Earth. But in reality, I think he's more than capable of being a tremendous creative presence in Liverpool's midfield as long as he's given a chance.
And a couple from Noel, who thankfully responded to a "I didn't see shit" plea:
* Flanagan and Robinson had trouble getting forward, showing the potential problem of relying heavily on young kids who can look great one match and poor the next, which is fine if they're filling in occasionally but tends to end quite badly if they have to be in week in and week out for whatever reason, as a couple of bad displays will tend to snowball.
* Joe Cole was awful—if his cross in China was about putting him in the shop window, today was about torching the shop. He was everything fans know and hate: more selfish and indecisive than Neymar and winded after ten minutes. Adam was surprisingly one of the few bright spots of a first half that saw the ball in the air far too much as last season's, "Hey, Carroll's in the lineup, let's send it to his head!" malady returned.
* In the second Aquilani absolutely bossed midfield in possession, though he got help from Shelvey excelling in the "keep things ticking over" role. Unfortunately, neither had a great deal of steel defensively, which put most of the burden of assisting a shaky center back pair and two fullbacks who actually were getting forward to Poulsen. Which lead to excitement and goals but only exemplifies how important a strong DM and CB pairing is if you're going to get width trough attacking fullbacks/wingbacks.
* As for those fullbacks, they at least did the job they were supposed to do—provide width. In particular Insua linking up with Aquilani as he bulled down the left, setting up a pair in the process and even providing a goal threat at times, made it look like Liverpool might not need Downing to solve their left-wing problem. It's hard to blame either him or Kelly for the goals scored against, but the tough reality was that their attacking intent simply wasn't compatible with the DM/CB combination.
So that's that---Liverpool return to England ahead of their trip to Hull for the third match of their preseason preparations. Ideally they'll be boosted by the additions of those who missed out on the Asian tour (Jordan Henderson, Doni, Stewart Downing, Glen Johnson, etc.), and it's likely we'll see more action off the pitch in the coming days as well.
If anything, we can celebrate a feel-good trip for the club and its supporters, and the fact that we're less than a month away from watching Liverpool play Premier League football.