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Adelaide United 0, Liverpool 2: All About Fitness

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Liverpool didn’t look great in the final third but, worrying reminders of 2014-15 aside, it was another solid run out for the Reds as they prepare for their Premier League campaign.

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Adelaide United 0
Liverpool 2 Milner 68’, Ings 87’

With Liverpool nearing the half-way point of pre-season, Brendan Rodgers’ team is starting to take shape. It’s clear Jordan Henderson and James Milner will be counted on as midfield engines, and that Adam Lallana will be a key creator. Meanwhile at the back, Nathaniel Clyne and Martin Skrtel appear locks to patrol the right side of the pitch and Joe Gomez looks at least a lock to be a regular rotation option.

Elsewhere, the changes from the match against Brisbane pointed to the less certain aspects. Dejan Lovren, Joe Allen, Jordon Ibe, and Divock Origi were all given a chance. None had a truly bad match, but neither were they standouts in a 4-1-4-1, with Lallana and Ibe taking on narrow positions that encouraged their fullbacks to overlap while one of Milner or—more often—Henderson regularly rotated deep centrally to support Allen.

Early on, the chances all came down the left for the Reds. First, Allen arrived late in the box, charging forward and squaring it. His pass just missed Origi. Then Origi missed a cross from Gomez that he really needed to simply tap or touch or bundle home—especially with Christian Benteke set to arrive. Instead he seemed to try for an overly fancy flick that meant he managed to miss the ball completely and waste what ended up the best chance of the half.

Later, Origi got his head down in the box trying to beat his man, and while his hard work eventually got him a half-chance, getting his head up might have got a full one for a teammate. It was a sequence that encapsulated Origi’s promise but also the fact that, at 20 years of age, he remains a very raw talent who will at times frustrate as much as he encourages. It didn’t help, either, that Joe Gomez continued his run of stellar form.

The 18-year-old continued to look a class above on the left, even while it was clear he isn’t especially strong on his left foot—which just made how good he was more impressive. Unless he can develop his weaker foot, it’s probably not a position one would want to see him in for an extended run against top opposition, but his talent again stood out, with most of Liverpool’s best moves seeing the young defender linking with Adam Lallana.

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A strong opening ten minutes aside, there weren’t a lot of great chances for Liverpool in the first half, but on the whole they did look sharp. They just, rather reminiscently of last season—and somewhat worryingly—appeared to lack the necessary focal point in attack. The second half saw more of the same, as with the only change the introduction of Alberto Moreno for his first action, Liverpool struggled to look especially dangerous.

Origi’s touch and movement remained an issue, with the striker giving the ball away and dropping into traffic too often, stunting buildup. It took until the 60th minute for the Reds to get a chance, a well worked series of passes between Milner, Henderson, Ibe, and Lallana leading to a stinging shot from outside the box for Lallana. It was a nice move,but with Lallana furthest forward it also left one wondering where the striker had gone.

A few minutes later, Milner played a cross into a dangerous area but Origi wasn’t aware to the potential opening until the ball was bouncing a yard in front of him. It was hardly a surprise at that point to see that Rodgers was going to give the final 20 minutes to Danny Ings. Before Origi left, though, Milner followed up his dangerous cross by knocking in an Ibe cross for the first goal of the night. He was well offside, but the official didn’t spot it.

His work done, Milner then joined Origi on the bench, giving Lucas the chance for a late run. Even ignoring the goal that shouldn’t have counted, it was another strong night for Milner alongside Henderson in the middle. It was also a good night for Martin Skrtel, who impressed in defence with a handful of strong, successful sliding tackles. The real standouts, though, were Lallana and, for his first half performance, Gomez.

And in the end, it was also a good night for Danny Ings, who looked lively in his cameo and cooly slotted home in the dying minutes for his first of pre-season. On the whole, though, it was a little worrying how ineffective Liverpool often appeared in attack, and while Origi is clearly a talent, he doesn’t seem ready quite yet to make a major impact and could end up fourth choice when Benteke arrives and if Daniel Sturridge finds fitness.