Liverpool 2 Solanke 60’, Origi 78’
Crystal Palace 0
A pre-season paced display with hints of Premier League action ends in a deserved win for Liverpool.
A thankful break in the Hong Kong downpour laid to rest any fears that the 2017 Asia Trophy would have to be cancelled, and Liverpool lined up in a familiar 4-3-3, with the only surprise being Ben Woodburn’s appearance in a central midfield role.
The opening minutes of the match set the standard for what could be expected throughout; Liverpool dominating possession and looking more likely to create danger, while Palace sat back and looked to counter, all at a moderate, pre-season-y tempo.
Twelve minutes had passed before the first proper chance occurred, and it was Trent Alexander-Arnold who set up Daniel Sturridge from the right side, following one of many gorgeous crossfield passes from captain Jordan Henderson. Sturridge’s right-footed effort from six yards was blocked for a corner, however, which predictably led to nothing.
The Reds were starting to find a rhythm, and minutes later, Mohamed Salah put his pace on display, skinning Damien Delaney in a one-on-one, but the Egyptian’s cross was cut out before it could reach Roberto Firmino at the back post. Another tremendous ball from Henderson found Sturridge in the box, and the striker’s cutback fell to Adam Lallana, but the former Southampton man sliced his shot high and wide.
On 21 minutes, the stadium erupted in rambunctious applause to honor Lucas Leiva, whose transfer to Lazio was confirmed on Tuesday, not the first nor the last time the crowd would show their appreciation for the Reds on the night.
Crystal Palace tested the Liverpool defense on 26 minutes, as Wilfried Zaha slid away from a series of challenges, before Andros Townsend found Keshi Anderson in the reds box, but Simon Mignolet quickly closed down the angle and made the save for a corner.
The rest of the half passed with little incident as the players began to feel the effects of heat and humidity, but Woodburn displayed vision and passing capabilities that would surprise many, finding both Salah and Sturridge with precise through balls. In the closing minutes of the half, Sturridge pulled off one of his trademark snapshots,, taking Wayne Hennessy by surprise and nearly creeping into far corner from 20 yards.
A silly, silly rule regarding the number of substitutions a team can make at a time meant that Jürgen Klopp had to stretch his ten changes out over three stops in play, leading to a staccato opening to the second half, as the side gradually morphed into its new 4-2-3-1. Salah managed one bad miss alone with Hennessy before coming off, but had been adjudged offside anyway.
A trademark Philippe Coutinho run ended in familiar fashion as he blazed the ball high and wide, before new-boy Dominic Solanke opened the scoring. Collecting a backheeledd flick from Divock Origi at the edge of the box, the 19-year old turned and drilled a terrific strike into the bottom corner, past a helpless Hennessy, opening his unofficial account for his new club.
Ambitious running and ineffective long range shooting were the features of the remainder of the match, with Marko Grujic, Ryan Kent, Origi and Coutinho all taking turns from range. A great touch allowed Coutinho to carry a James Milner pass into the box, and while his goalbound shot ricocheted off a Palace defender,m it fell kindly to Origi, who tucked it home from 5 yards.
The Reds saw out the rest of the game with little trouble and booked their place in Saturday’s final, where they will face Leicester City.
Another solid run-out in the books, where players range from rusty to ready and everything in between. Jordan Henderson stood out with his passing, while Alexander-Arnold appears just about ready to deputise at right-back. Coutinho and Woodburn both look sharp, Salah and Solanke promising, while Lallana and Wijnaldum clearly have some distance to go before they are match-fit, with the former’s hair in particular an utter shambles.
A familiar tendency to double up on the ball carrier — closing down but not quite enough to make a tackle — while losing track of the runner remains and needs to be sorted out of Klopp’s men are to limit the quality of the chances they concede, as does set piece defending, but as of now, it seems the Reds are on schedule.