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Tranmere 2, Liverpool 3: Stellar Start, Sloppy Finish

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After a dazzling first half, the Reds looked disjointed in the second, but still notched their second win of their pre-season campaign.

Tranmere Rovers v Liverpool - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Tranmere 2 Smith 72’, Soukouna 81’
Liverpool 3 Camacho 7’, Ojo 27’, Lallana 33’

The Reds continued their pre-season with their annual win at Prenton Park, managing to look both spectacular and sloppy in the process

As is the tradition, Liverpool presented a mixture of experience and talent in their starting line-up on Tuesday, as Rafa Camacho and Nat Phillips joined Ragnar Klavan and Andrew Robertson in front of Danny Ward, while new signings Naby Keïta and Fabinho took to the pitch together for the first time, sharing midfield duties with Adam Lallana. Up top, Sheyi Ojo and Ryan Kent flanked Dominic Solanke, in Jürgen Klopp’s customary 4-3-3.

The visitors — debuting their purple away kits — set the standard early, relentlessly harrying Tranmere’s ball carriers, consistently forcing their local rivals into cul-de-sacs and look to pounce on any opportunity for a counter attack. They scored early too, as Ojo chased a ball down the right flank, sliding along the turf to keep it in play, before slipping it through for the underlapping Camacho, who rolled the ball into the far corner for a 1-0 lead.

Led by the tenacious pair of Keïta and Lallana, the Reds time and again won the ball in the opposition half, creating dangerous situations. On fifteen minutes, a gorgeous deep cross from Robertson found Solanke 12 yards out, but the striker skied his first-time effort. The Scot was in focus again five minutes later as Liverpool patiently worked the ball across the field and into the box, but the fullback’s finish was blocked for a corner.

A minute later, Robertson found Solanke with another gorgeous cross, but the 20-year old’s header was weak and dropped harmlessly into Scott Davies’ arms. Ojo went close on 25 minutes when his deflected cross nearly dropped into the far corner, then doubled the Reds’ advantage as he cut inside from the right flank and smashed the ball past Davies with his left foot.

Just after the half-hour, the visitors went three up, this time as consistent pressure denied Tranmere a proper clearance, allowing Lallana to pounce on a loose ball and smash it into the far corner. It was everything the 30-year old’s performance deserved, and the Reds were cruising.

The hosts made their first and last visit of the half into the Liverpool box on 35 minutes, but an athletic leap from a wrong-footed Ward denied Paul Mullins from 15 yards. Five minutes from time, a slick Ojo backheel found a streaking Camacho, but the Portuguese fullback’s cutback was sliced wide by Lallana.

In the second half, Loris Karius kept goal behind Nathaniel Clyne, Pedro Chirivella, Joe Gomez and Alberto Moreno, while James Milner, Curtis Jones and Ben Woodburn manned the midfield. Up top, Harry Wilson and Divock Origi flanked a perpetually false nine-ing Daniel Sturridge.

Swapping all 11 players at the half was always likely to lead to some inconsistent play, and the Reds were never able to rediscover the intensity from the first frame, struggling both to pressure Tranmere effectively off the ball, as well as creating clear chances. Clyne was deftly played in by Wilson in 52 minutes, but the fullback’s finish was a fullback’s finish and hooked well wide of the far post.

Joe Gomez headed well over at the back post following a short corner routine on the hour mark, and not much happened until the hosts pulled one back 20 minutes from time. The Karius is broken-takes will undoubtedly be rampant on the mean streets of Twitter tonight, as the German goalkeeper gave up a sloppy rebound on a powerful free kick driven straight at his chest, and Johnny Smith pounced to tuck home from four yards.

A driven Sturridge effort from range was parried wide at the other end, before Tranmere scored another, again gift-wrapped, as Chirivella played a blind backpass into Amadou Soukouna, who made no mistake alone with Karius.

Their lead cut to one goal, Liverpool finally seemed to wake up, and in the final ten minutes of the match, created a number of strong scoring opportunities. Ben Woodburn played a gorgeous ball for Clyne down the right, and the fullback’s cross narrowly missed Wilson in front of goal before finding Origi at the back post, but the Belgian’s effort was blocked for a corner.

Minutes later Sturridge hammered an effort at goal from ten yards, before Wilson was brought down for what appeared a clear penalty when skipping past his man after collecting the rebound. Another slide rule Woodburn pass through the right-hand channel saw Clyne cross again, this time to Curtis Jones, but the 17-year old could only find the side netting from the narrow angle.

Finally, one minute from time, Origi held up the ball and cut it back for Wilson twelve yards out, but the 21-year old’s driven effort was hooked just past the far post, ending the game at 3-2.

Another solid run-out for the Reds, with the 30 minute drop-off in the second half perfectly explicable given where we are at in pre-season. The first half — beyond the relentless defensive press — saw some slick positional interchange between players, and the Tranmere defenders were lucky to escape with only three goals conceded. Fabinho provided a calming presence to balance the intensity and industry of his midfield mates, while Robertson’s crossing looked much improved from the previous campaign.

Although the second half was far more uneven, the lean form and impassioned manner of Daniel Sturridge will have fans hoping more than ever that the 28-year old’s injury troubles are behind him, while Harry Wilson continues to look like potential attacking depth rather than loan fodder. Above all of that, Ben Woodburn is an absolute baller — displaying vision, ability and understanding belying his young years — and should be in serious consideration for first team minutes this season.

Next up: an away clash with Bury on Saturday as the Reds continue to integrate new players and build their fitness for the upcoming season.