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Liverpool 2, Middlesbrough 2 (14-13 pens): First Thoughts

Liverpool's first domestic cup game of the season brought a much needed but stuttering victory after an epic penalty shoot-out.

Alex Livesey

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Liverpool 2 Rossiter 10', Suso 109',
Middlesbrough 2 Reach 62', Bamford (pen.) 120'

  • Jordan Rossiter's debut was the big story before the game along with Rickie Lambert captaining his boyhood club in his first start. The first ten minutes were even with the visiting Championship players acquitting themselves well. Liverpool went ahead after Sterling closed a defender down, Lambert's follow up shot was blocked by Middlesbrough FC goalkeeper Jamal Blackman, and the ball broke to the 17-year-old midfielder who calmly put the ball past Blackman's legs from outside the area. 

  • Liverpool's 4231 formation featured a lot of play down the left side but the right side gradually became an attacking option with Lazar Markovic stationed on the right. Jose Enrique and Adam Lallana were involved in down the left in the opening 15 minutes while Raheem Sterling was everywhere from his central position. As Liverpool's fullbacks pushed up, it was pleasing to see both Markovic and Lallana take up more central positions to provide Rickie Lambert with support.

  • It was a decent first half for the home side with some crisp passing and neat interchanges. It is clear that there is still a lot of understanding for the players to develop. Lallana coming in from the flank, floating a ball into Lambert that he can knock down for an incoming player to shoot on goal is something other players haven't quite read yet. Also, there were numerous other examples of players failing to continue a run, anticipate a ball, and understand the tendencies and styles of the players around them. New signings, young players, and first starts of the season will make cohesion difficult. 

  • Defensively, Brendan Rodgers' side wasn't as composed as one would think at home to a team from a step below on the the league ladder. Even though there wasn't any resultant danger, the centre backs and goalkeeper had a couple of questionable moments in the first half. Concentration will be something that Liverpool will need to work on defensively in the weeks to come.

  • The second half featured more approach play from Liverpool that lacked conviction in final third execution from reasons outlined above. After Mamadou Sakho was penalised for a handball down Liverpool's left, Adam Reach diverted Grant Leadbitter's fine delivery for the equaliser. It was another set-piece goal conceded and a clean sheet was now out of reach for the home side.

  • Liverpool continued to labour in producing clear openings in the second half but Sterling and Lallana most likely to create something. Markovic was hesitant in the final third and Lambert still looked short of comfort. There were signs of what they could bring early on but hopefully they'll grow over the course of the season. A word for another debutant, Jordan Williams

  • Jordan Williams replaced his namesake Rossiter to make his debut from the bench and it was a difficult time to for an 18-year-old youngster to make his first competitive appearance for Liverpool. Rossiter put in a good performance but was tiring so a change was needed. Williams had a tough 40 minutes but it will be an extremely useful experience for his development.

  • A big problem for Liverpool this season has been the lack of clear cut chances or even just making the goalkeeper work. In the second half of extra time, Liverpool threatened Middlesbrough's goal in the space of three minutes more convincingly than at any other stage of the game. Suso's goal was a reward for those three minutes as Liverpool played with more urgency.

  • Relief for Liverpool and bright performances from Rossiter, Sterling, Suso, Lucas, and Lallana for a nervy victory in extra time. So, a penalty conceded by Kolo Toure on the counter and 2-2. An epic penalty shoot-out but how will the players be affected before the Merseyside derby? Everton were well beaten by Swansea City in normal time but Liverpool's win went the full distance. Both teams will have much to ponder before the derby.

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.

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