Liverpool 4 Milner 34’ (pen), Grujic 42’, Chirivella 50’, Woodburn 79’ (pen)
Well, we’re not gonna complain about that, are we. The Reds run roughshod over the Rovers and the 2017/18 pre-season is officially underway.
Jordan Henderson led Liverpool out onto the pitch for the first time in nearly six months, and the 49-day wait for football we care about was over. The familiar 4-3-3 was inhabited by a relatively strong and experienced eleven, with sprinkles of youth throughout in the shape of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Marko Grujic and Sheyi Ojo.
The Reds set the tone immediately, as Daniel Sturridge dinked a ball over the top for Ojo, but the young winger was unable to put his shot on target with the goalkeeper committed. Predictably, a cross caused trouble at the other end, as Tranmere headed over from the back post, and only a minute later Loris Karius had to move his feet to collect a cheeky 35-yard chip attempt.
Joël Matip continued his dry spell in front of goal, blasting a cushioned header from Lucas Leiva over the bar from six yards following a James Milner corner, and Ojo went agonizingly close immediately after, as his shot from 18 yards was deflected inches wide. A slow period followed, and nearly 30 minutes had passed before the next chance, as Grujic swiveled his way into the box and forced a save, before Sturridge whiffed on the rebound.
The stalemate wouldn’t last long however. Ojo was first to react to a loose ball in the box, and got his foot to the ball ahead of the Tranmere keeper. The youngster went down and Mike Dean blew his whistle. Milner converted despite a strong hand to the ball from Scott Davies, and the Reds were in the lead. The left fullback went close minutes later, this time with a curling effort from 20 yards that whistled just past the far post.
With the first half winding down, last year’s Player of the Pre-Season, Marko Grujic jinked past his marker and buried a dipping effort into the bottom corner from 25 yards. 2-0 up and good value for it.
Jürgen Klopp swapped every outfield player at the interval, and the more youthful side immediately looked to put a pace on a tiring Tranmere defense. Now more reasonably coiffed — and increasingly dreamy — Ryan Kent looked a proper threat, skinning his man twice in the first five minutes. His first run led to a cross that inspired an audacious — but well-saved — chip from Pedro Chirivella, while his second saw him find new-boy Dominic Solanke in the box. The 19-year old did well to turn and get a shot off, and while his effort was saved by Davies, Chirivella reacted quickest to the rebound, tucking home from six yards.
Solanke nearly set up a second minutes later, as he picked up a loose ball and found Ben Woodburn arriving in the box, but Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer could only put his effort straight at the goalkeeper. Karius was forced into action again on the hour mark, again following failure to deal with a set-piece, but he did well to charge down the shot from a narrow angle, before being substituted for young Kamil Grabara.
The game had slowed, but Kent kept menacing Tranmere’s right side, and fifteen minutes from time, he beat two before sliding the ball in for Woodburn. The 17-year old showed great ability to control the ball and was brought down from behind. He took the penalty himself, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way for an emphatic 4-0 lead.
There was still time for the young Reds to carve out a couple more chances. First, Lazar Markovic absolutely hammered the ball over the bar from twelve yards following some ping-pong in the Tranmere box, before Solanke megged his man with a delightful first touch, but was again unable to put the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper.
Just like that, the 2017/18 season is underway, and what a way to do it. With names like Emre Can, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané yet to return to the squad, there is undoubtedly more to come from this team, but there was no clamoring for their presence today. Still only at the beginning of the search for full fitness, it is encouraging that the Liverpool side can produce a display this energetic, and while the result is meaningless in the end, nobody is going to complain about a pre-season with no injuries and buckets of goals.
We are exactly one month away from the season kicking off properly, and Wigan await on Friday.