Liverpool 5 Grujic 18', Woodburn 52', Lucas 69', Firmino 70', 90+1'
All four summer signings started in the first half's 4-3-3, as Joël Matip partnered Dejan Lovren in central defense in front of Loris Karius, with Alberto Moreno and Jon Flanagan covering the fullback spots. Kevin Stewart held the single pivot, with Marko Grujic and Trent Alexander-Arnold shuttling, while Danny Ings lead the line, supported by Sadio Mané and Lazar Markovic.
The game started off at a yomping pace with both sides counter pressing aggressively. Paired with the narrow pitch and a collection of pre-season touches, this lead to a chaotic opening ten minutes where little quality was allowed to shine through, Mané's terrific touch, balance and pass finding Markovic for an easily-collected finish the sole exception.
On 11 minutes, NKotB Grujic displayed both strength and ability, as the bundled over a challenging Fleetwood midfielder by mostly standing still, then stepover-ing his way to a penalty. It was a bit of a softie, and ball don't lie, so predictably, Ings missed the subsequent spot-kick with a terrible effort hit weakly straight at the keeper.
Mané was starting to heat up, and his opposing fullback was having a torrid time keeping up with the Senegalese winger, as Fleetwood's narrow 4-4-2 left the two isolated on Liverpool's left side time and again, often with partner in crime Moreno nearby. On seventeen minutes, he was played in by Grujic, but the shot was blocked. Then a nice piece of play saw Matip find Mané with a strong diagonal pass, which was slipped into Moreno's path, whose flat cross found Grujic at the far post. The 20-year old made no mistake and buried his effort at the near post.
Five minutes later, the Serbian smashed an effort off the near post from an impossible angle, before a series of excursions down the left side saw Mané and Moreno crosses lead to decent shots from both Lovren and Alexander-Arnold. Two minutes from time, the Fishermen produced their biggest opportunity of the half, as David Ball tore past a couple of Liverpool defenders and rolled an inviting ball across the face of the Liverpool goal, but no-one was on hand to capitalise.
The second half saw wholesale changes to both personnel and formation, as Bogdan replaced his German rival in goal, and Conor Randall, Andre Wisdom, Tiago Ilori and Brad Smith made up the new backline. In the 4-2-3-1, Cameron Brannagan and Lucas made up the double pivot behind an attacking band of Ryan Kent, Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn, while Roberto Firmino took on the lone striker role.
After another chaotic couple of opening minutes, the Reds collected their second of the night. A quick free kick from Brannagan found Lucas, who slid the ball through the right channel for Kent. The young winger unselfishly cut the ball back across the box, and the 16-year old debutant tucked it home into an open net. The youthfulness of the side was apparent throughout, with plenty of high intensity pressing leading to counters based around direct running and vertical passes. Kent and Firmino did well to set up Woodburn on one such opportunity, while Firmino combined with Ejaria to create a chance for Brannagan minutes later, but both chances went begging.
Twenty minutes from time, Lucas started another counter by tackling and passing in the same motion. Firmino went past a couple defenders and played Kent in on the right, whose cutback found Lucas again, this time having completed a run into the box. The veteran attacking midfielder from Grêmio did as he always does and buried the ball past the Fleetwood keeper, obviously.
A minute later, Ejaria intercepted the ball, went past an opposition player and slid the ball into space for Woodburn to latch onto. The Cod Army goalkeeper did well to close down and smother the teenager's shot, but Firmino was on hand to tuck home the rebound.
The game went into a slow fifteen minutes after this, with Liverpool content to stroke the ball about and Fleetwood unable to press them into mistakes. Five minutes from time, Woodburn had a goal rightfully chalked off for offside after a neat pass from Kent, before Firmino put the icing on the pre-season cake with the fifth of the night. A terrific diagonal ball from Lucas found Woodburn at the left side of the box, and his accurate ball across the box left the Brazilian striker with a simple finish from five yards.
As 5-0 thumpings are wont to be, this was pretty fun. We got new signings and youngsters galore, and goals to go with them. There were some gelling issues, naturally, but overall, the players look to have bought into Jürgen Klopp's ideas, combining possession football and slick interplay with aggressive pressing and direct play into space.
Marko Grujic was the obvious standout in the first half, popping up everywhere and being involved in most of Liverpool's most dangerous situations. Mané and Moreno displayed and emerging partnership and absolutely terrorised the Fleetwood fullback throughout the half. Danny Ings was industry with little product, and Markovic floated in and out of the game. Defensively, Matip and Lovren looked mostly fine and Karius was very handsome.
In the second half, Brannagan involved himself in as much as possible, while Lucas looked terrific and just like the calming presence he should be in a side like this. Kent and Woodburn were fearless in attack, and Firmino looked like an AM playing at striker, dropping a little too deep and not being vertical enough, but still just a step above everybody else and thus scoring two goals. Ejaria possesses a graceful physicality and vision that will be very exciting to follow as he develops. Bogdan made a save.
On to the next one, as Wigan Athletic await on Sunday.