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HJK Helsinki 0, Liverpool 2: Tactical Tweak Lifts Reds

Liverpool ride second half surge to pre-season triumph.

How Foo Yeen/Getty Images
HJK Helsinki 0
Liverpool 2 Origi 73', Coutinho 78'

You could have slept through the first 35 minutes of this match and missed nothing. The first half entirely, really. Liverpool lined up in the 4-3-2-1 formation that Brendan Rodgers has become so fond of this pre-season, and dominated HJK Helsinki in possession. The problem for the Reds was that for all of their ball control, there were barely any scoring opportunities. A lack of chances against a defense sitting deep? Midseason form!

It wasn't all bad for Liverpool in the first 45 -- Philippe Coutinho did his thing and Nathaniel Clyne and Jordon Ibe linked well on the right. But it was clear that the tactical setup that had worked well for Liverpool in previous friendlies was in need of adjustment. Jordan Henderson and James Milner, like the energizer bunny midfielders that they are, repeatedly attempted to drive the ball forward through the middle, which was a problem because Ibe and Adam Lallana were already in those advanced central midfield positions. The result was overcrowding and poor overall play in the final third.

Rodgers noticed the issue with his initial setup and made a swift tactical change to start the second half (hooray!). He switched to a 4-3-3 with Ibe and Lallana out wide in support of Danny Ings, with a midfield three of Coutinho-Milner-Henderson behind them. The move wasn't great for Lallana, who prefers to play in the middle, but that didn't matter much as Ibe took over the match after being shifted to a wider position.

Ibe should have had an assist early in the second half when he found Ings with a low cross, but Ings fired over the bar. He got an assist-to-the-assist for Liverpool's first goal -- after beating two players to the byline, he crossed to Milner who flicked on to Divock Origi, setting up a simple enough finish at the near post.

Coutinho doubled the fun with a deflected goal in the 78th minute after doing his classic drift-inside-from-left-wing maneuver. Then the final 12 minutes happened, although it felt a lot longer than that.

So it's another pre-season win for Liverpool, and a step closer to Stoke City next weekend. Rodgers' mid-match tactical change was a welcome sight for fans who've found him too slow to make such adjustments in the past, but beyond that this was simply another chance to gain squad fitness. Liverpool will face Swindon tomorrow to wrap up the pre-season.

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