Valerenga 1: Gonzalez 35'
Liverpool 4: Alberto 31', Aspas 45', Kelly 54', Sterling 90'+1'
With a starting eleven that wasn't quite the squad's best, Liverpool eventually get another comfortable preseason victory, getting two goals from the new boys in the first half and strengthening in the second half with an eleven that's very close to their best. Only one friendly left now, and despite the frenzy around the future of Luis Suarez, there's plenty to feel encouraged about.
- Jordan Henderson as captain--even in a squad that contained few regular first-teamers--was a nice bit of tonic after yesterday's unsettling Suarez news. Hard worker, committed squad members, and someone fully deserving of having the armband if only for a short period of time. He wasn't overwhelming
- Valerenga had no way to deal with Liverpool's early pressure; there were some doubts about the starting eleven's ability to create chances, but they forced the hosts into a number of errors. As has so often been the case, they struggled to finish the chances they did create, which had as much to do with Gudmund Kongshavn's excellent play in goal as it did Liverpool's own profligacy. The Norwegian made a number of wonderful saves from Iago Aspas and Stewart Downing, and was almost single-handedly responsible for keeping the match scoreless through the first thirty minutes.
- The opener finally came after Aspas struck the bar and Valerenga couldn't clear, as Luis Alberto placed a well-struck volley into the bottom corner. It was a terrific goal and well-deserved lead for Liverpool though it was unfortunately short-lived as they conceded from a corner just four minutes later. This has needed fixing for about five seasons now, so anytime would be great, Brendan.
- It all came together for Aspas' goal--great ball from Alberto, who was mostly superb on the day, good timing on the run from Downing, great cutback into space for a wonderfully timed run from the Spaniard. Great way to finish the half, and it showcased the best qualities of each of the players involved.
- As promised, there were wholesale changes at the half with only Andre Wisdom--who continued to do very, very well in central defense--remaining, and the eleven on the pitch were about two or three away from being the current squad's best. Their quality told quickly, and Valerenga was even more overmatched than in the first half. Martin Kelly's goal wasn't anything special, but in terms of physicality and quality, there was a noticeable gulf.
- Liverpool didn't press quite as much and were coasting for much of the half (likely with a view to Saturday), but still had a few chances mostly through runs from Raheem Sterling and Oussama Assaidi(!). Philippe Coutinho spent most of his time in the middle, at times more withdrawn and at others tighter to Fabio Borini, who just cannot buy a goal right now. Smart, hard-working, and completely hapless in front of goal. The interplay got better even if the effort level didn't, and Sterling's goal right at the death was a deserved reward for a front four that were solid for the final forty-five.
Only one match left now before the start of the Premier League, and as I mentioned, I think most of the signs on the pitch are good. Some storms to weather off it and strengthening to be done in the squad, but overall I'm happy with where things are at. Saturday should give us our best glimpse yet at what we can expect for the Stoke City match on August 17, which is now right around the corner.
Luis Alberto's first Liverpool goal:
Video by MostarLFC