Blackburn 0 - 2 Liverpool
Liverpool: Markovic 63’, Sturridge 73’
In a typically messy pre-season performance, Liverpool run out eventual winners without ever shifting out of second gear.
With Alisson finishing up his medical at Melwood, Loris Karius was given the starting spot in Liverpool’s final pre-season game ahead of their trip to the US. Ahead of the German was a backline of Nathaniel Clyne, Joël Matip, Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno, while James Milner and Ben Woodburn joined the embarrassingly coiffed Adam Lallana in midfield. Up top, Dominic Solanke, Divock Origi and Sheyi Ojo were tasked with scoring the goals.
It didn’t start too badly, either, and after six minutes, Solanke was brought down by David Raya as he chased down an Origi through ball. The Blackburn goalkeeper made amends, however, leaping to his right to keep Milner’s penalty attempt out.
It was all downhill from there, with Blackburn determined to deny their opponent any time or space on the ball, and the visitors unable to string together possession in meaningful areas or create chances of much merit. Solanke headed a back post Lallana cross wide in the 20th minute, and an Origi goal was correctly called off for offside on the half hour mark, while Blackburn forced a pair of solid saves from Karius at the other end.
As a chaotic half came to a close, the Reds created a pair of golden opportunities for Adam Lallana. First the Englishman was set up by Woodburn following a slick one-two with Origi, but Lallana’s left-footed chip came back off the crossbar. Seconds later, Solanke drove to the byline and cut it back, but this time, Lallana’s finish from eight yards was blocked by Raya’s trailing leg.
Jürgen Klopp made ten changes at the half, and Liverpool immediately looked better for it. The hosts struggled to bypass the Reds’ press, and Curtis Jones hacked a good opportunity over the bar five minutes into the frame after a sliding clearance fell to him. Naby Keïta took full control of midfield, leading the press and transition game, and after 53 minutes, he slipped a gorgeous ball through the Blackburn backline for Daniel Sturridge, but the striker hooked his shot inches wide of the far post.
Three minutes later, the Guinean drove through midfield again, finding Sturridge a second time, but again the 28-year old’s finish whistled past Raya’s post, to the surprise of everybody in the stadium, himself included.
Sturridge would have more luck as a provider, however, and just past the hour mark, a Keïta-led press forced an error that saw Liverpool’s number 15 facing goal 30 yards out. He fed surprise contributor Lazar Markovic with a weighted through ball and the Serbian made no mistake, burying the ball in the back of the net from 18 yards out.
A few minutes later, Joe Gomez cut inside from his right-back position and slid a left-footed pass through the Blackburn lines. Rafa Camacho timed his run perfectly, but his dink past the goalkeeper didn’t have enough pace on it, allowing a defender to slide in and clear it off the line.
Sturridge and the Reds would get their goal in the end, and again it was Keïta the creator. Winning the ball on his own, the former Leipzig man drive towards goal and slipped a pass to Sturridge, who took a touch to settle before tidily tucking the ball home with the outside of the boot.
The game settled down from there, with a gorgeous Keïta ball over the top to Camacho in the final seconds the only event of note in the closing 15 minutes.
While the first half wasn’t much to look at, and Adam Lallana’s terrible 2002 hair overshadowing an otherwise solid performance from the Englishman, the final 45 were much better, with Keïta and Fabinho in particular continuing to look a class above. A lean and fresh-looking Daniel Sturridge is always a welcome sight, but fans will be wary of getting their hopes up about his ability to stay healthy enough to contribute as the season begins.
The Reds will head to the US tomorrow, where they take on Borussia Dortmund in the International Champions Cup tournament in Charlotte on Sunday.