Liverpool 1 Lallana 4'
FC Sion 1 Assifuah 18'
Brendan Rodgers sent out a greatly altered side from the one that beat Villa on Saturday, with only Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Emre Can and Danny Ings retaining their place. In a 3-5-2 formation, Joe Gomez and Kolo Toure rounded out the defence, Jordon Ibe provided width on the left, Jordan Rossiter and Joe Allen composed a diminutive central midfield, and Adam Lallana floated in a free role behind Ings and Divock Origi.
The first 90 seconds consisted of the back three passing the ball among themselves as Sion sat back and offered only nominal pressing, pushing their backline up to compress the midfield. Keeping that defensive line honest would require some long balls and penetration, and it arrived on 3 minutes, as an offside-positioned Lallana won an aerial duel, Origi picked the ball up in the ensuing scramble, strode past a pair of defenders and put the ball on a plate for Lallana to slot home from 6 yards.
The strike pair that looked so out of sync against Carlisle a week ago were mobile and dangerous this time out, playing off each other's runs and getting into dangerous areas, with Ings spurning a glorious chance one on one ten minutes later after Allen flashed a moment of creativity.
So far so promising, but according to the Third Law of ETW, a promising start must be followed by some defensive shenanigans, and Liverpool stayed true to the rule book as a tired-looking Clyne sloppily gave the ball away, Ibe was caught too far upfield, and Gomez stepped up to play Assifuah offside, despite the rest of the backline not moving. The Ghanaian striker made no mistake and after a great first touch, slotted the ball between Mignolet's legs.
The home side were not visibly discouraged, and the front three created several excellent opportunities, first seeing a Danny Ings goal correctly disallowed for offside, before the same man failed to control the ball after a beautiful Lallana cross. As time ran out in the first half, Origi was played clean through by Lallana, but waited too long to strike and his delayed shot was deflected wide.
Alberto Moreno came on for Clyne at half-time, and rightly so, as the right back was looking fatigued throughout the first 45. Ibe moved to the right side, and, in a new tactical wrinkle, Can was moved to the middle CB position, making his forward runs from there as Gomez and Toure stayed narrow.
Liverpool continued to look threatening up until the final touch, with Ings selecting to shoot from a terrible angle instead of crossing to his strike partner, and Toure hitting a 20 yard looping overhead kick off the top of the crossbar on the subsequent corner. Origi displayed raw athleticism and technique as he raced away from his marker minutes later, but his cross was cut out and deflected for another corner.
Philippe Coutinho came on for Danny Ings on 60 minutes, and the home team switched to a 3-6-1, with Origi taking up the dreaded lone striker role. He should have scored three minutes later, as Allen put him through on goal, but despite coolly sending the covering defender sliding over the touchline with a feinted shot, he ultimately put his shot straight at Andris Vanins' leg. Simon Mignolet would pull out his vintage great save from close range, before a Coutinho through ball gifted Origi another great chance, but his poked finish was expertly saved by Vanins. A gorgeous Moreno cross found Lallana unmarked and with time in the box, but he placed his finish straight at the Latvian goalkeeper.
And that was more or less it. The final 15 minutes passed without much to note, aside from the home fans leaving early and the injury time YNWA getting drowned out by raucous Sion supporters.
Another match goes in the category Promising, but Scoreboard. Gomez and Ibe were a weakness defensively, and Sion were clearly aware, aiming their counters into the gap between them. Ibe continues to have a nightmare of a season and contributed nothing on offense either. Nathaniel Clyne looking fatigued after having played 850 of 855 possible minutes up to his substitution was entirely unsurprising, and something that needs to be addressed. Allen delivered a mixed performance, as expected from an injury prone player struggling to put together a run of matches.
On the bright side, the attacking trio found some excellent rhythm and played well off each other, with some poor finishing and good goalkeeping standing between them and a 5-goal performance. Jordan Rossiter continues to look beyond his years and offers a defensive option that should allow the manager to rest first-choice Lucas throughout the season. And Mamadou Sakho came on and relished the opportunity to play against not Rudy Gestede.
All in all though, failing yet again to take more than a single point at home against a much weaker opponent isn't good enough, and will do nothing to ease the mounting pressure on Brendan Rodgers.