Mainz 4 Brosinski 15', Córdoba 45', Malli 60', Muto 75'
Where to begin? Liverpool traveled to Mainz less than a day after dismantling Barcelona, and proceeded to get dismantled by the club at which Jürgen Klopp served first as a player and then as a manager for eighteen years. This was a match in which there were few meaningful discoveries for Liverpool. Instead, Liverpool supporters received timely reminders that elevated expectations are for fools and that the club's luck with injuries has already reach mid-season form.
As would be expected so soon after their contest at Wembley, several faces who saw either little or no time on the pitch against Barcelona got a chance to start against the side who finished 6th in last year's Bundesliga campaign. There was, however, still room and time for Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Emre Can to
pick up a catastrophic injury stretch their legs at the Opel Arena against a club with very old ties and no small amount of affection for Klopp.
Elsewhere, Liverpool welcomed back Joel Matip from an injury sustained at Wigan, bookending him and Andre Wisdom with Alberto Moreno and Trent Alexander-Arnold on either side. Following James Milner's injury at Wembley, there will be some questions about the quality and adequacy of fullback depth, and this match will not have provided clear answers.
After a decent opening spell from the visitors, it was increasingly clear that Liverpool were struggling to keep pace with their hosts. For the players who featured significantly in yesterday's action, legs and bodies were a step behind. For the newer faces, it was instead a case of the footballing brain being unable to match Mainz's flurry of activity.
Mainz executed a high press almost to perfection, frustrating Liverpool's attempts at developing any sort of rhythm. When they did have the ball, the hosts time and time again got behind the Liverpool fullbacks with ease. When Mainz weren't busy harrassing Alexander-Arnold and Moreno, they were disrupting Henderson and Grujic's efforts at locating Origi, who cut an increasingly isolated figure up front.
Not helpful to the situation was Grujic landing awkwardly and making his right ankle do things it wasn't built to do. Though he stayed on briefly, the midfielder was eventually forced off the pitch, ceding his place to Danny Ings. Despite Klopp later suggesting the knock wasn't serious, Grujic has been a bit tenderized by the opposition during this preseason, and it's yet another distressing development on the depth chart with the season just a week away.
Mainz found their breakthrough early in the half. After just fifteen minutes, a sliding Wisdom was penalized for a handball in the box while attempting to clear a cross. There was clearly no intent on the defender's part, but despite Henderson's protestations, this was not a particularly controversial decision. Brosinski converted with a minimum of fuss for the hosts, and Mainz had the early lead.
To add insult to Grujic's injury, Jhon Córdoba doubled Mainz's lead just before the half. Not for the first time on the day, slack passing in the Liverpool midfield led to a loss of possession, and despite Joël Matip's close attentions, Córdoba finished well past Manninger to put Klopp's makeshift side into a deeper hole. On the positive side of the ledger for the first half, young Ben Woodburn continued to show a good instinct for taking up dangerous positions, and Matip put in a decent shift after his spell on the sidelines.
Having been unable to shepherd Córdoba into a more difficult shot for the second, Matip was put in a difficult position by a loss of possession high up the pitch. Though the central defender arguably could have done more to trouble a surging Yunus Malli, the Mainz man did produce a lovely strike from distance to beat Manninger for the third goal. Cameron Brannagan and Kevin Stewart, who had come on at the half, each had their moments but also drifted between invisibility and visible ineffectiveness for spells of the second period. Elsewhere, Connor Randall and Toni Gomes were introduced for the departing Alexander-Arnold and Woodburn.
Aside from the opening few minutes of the second half, Liverpool were oddly muted and diffident. Klopp may have sought to introduce a little more bite into his side by bringing on Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino late, but Mainz remained unperturbed. With just about 15 minutes left in the match, yet another unchallenged cross by Mainz found a similarly undistressed Yoshinori Muto, who easily headed home for the fourth goal of the afternoon.
This was not the most confidence-inspiring tune-up for the visit to Arsenal next week, even if there were mitigating factors in play. Liverpool supporters will have to trust Klopp to iron out some of the remaining wrinkles in the short time available. If nothing else, this was a sobering reminder of the work that remains to be done after the dizzying heights attained against Barcelona. Leave it to a fictionalized Tony Wilson to sum up the past two days, as we all take a deep breath and gird ourselves for 2016-17:
I'll just say one word: 'Icarus'. If you get it, great. If you don't, that's fine too. But you should probably read more.
- 24 Hour Party People