Liverpool 3 - 1 Torino
Liverpool: Firmino 21’, Wijnaldum 24’, Sturridge 87’
Torino: Belotti 31’
In what seems likely to become a representative performance at Anfield the coming year, Liverpool secure a comfortable win after 90 minutes of one-way traffic.
With both Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan kept out of the matchday squad as precautions, Jürgen Klopp elected to start his only fit centre-backs, pairing Virgil van Dijk with 21-year old Nat Philips. Trent Alexander-Arnold made his first start of the pre-season, with Alberto Moreno manned the final spot in the back four. In midfield, Fabinho sat behind Naby Keïta and Georginio Wijnaldum, while the familiar trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah made up the frontline.
The game began slowly, with Torino ceding possession and space, sitting deep in a narrow 5-3-2, and Liverpool consistently probing for potential weaknesses. A bit of slick interplay between the attacking trio nearly paid off, had it not been for a slightly overhit pass from Salah, while at the other end, the aggressively high back line held firm, catching Torino forwards offsides on the few occasions where midfield failed to deal with a counter.
On 15 minutes, Liverpool’s counter press should have paid off, as Salah won the ball just outside the Torino box, slipping a ball through for Mané. The Senegalese forward glided past his marker but was caught in the process, and although he stayed on his feet to attempt an impossible finish with the outside of his right boot, Michael Oliver called a penalty. Fabinho, he of the 95% success rate, stepped up, and promptly hooked his penalty past Sirigu’s right post. If the Brazilian has any ambitions about taking over the spot kick duties at the club, he’ll hope to have gotten his miss out of the way.
It wouldn’t be long before the hosts got their rewards, however, and a long ball over the top found Wijnaldum on the right sideline. An outrageous first touch over his head took the Dutchman past his marker, before he found Salah streaking towards the area. The Egyptian picked out Firmino, who cut inside his man and fired off a shot, which eventually deflected off a defender and into the top corner.
Three minutes later, another long ball found Salah, who again laid it off to Firmino. This time, Wijnaldum was the one surging into the box — reminding us all of his long-standing but forgotten credentials as a bona fide attacking midfielder — and after latching onto the Brazilian’s through ball, Wijnaldum slipped the ball under the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. So far, so simple. The Reds were cruising, and Il Toro weren’t putting up much of a fight.
The visitors would nick a goal on the half hour, however, and after Moreno failed to close down a Lorenzo Di Silvestri cross, Nat Philips lost track of Andrea Belotti, who powered home a header from five yards, leaving Alisson no chance. It seemed a large reward for little effort, but the Anfield faithful appeared unperturbed.
Five minutes from the break, that man Gini Wijnaldum was in again, courtesy of a nifty Salah flick and a glorious first touch taking him past the last man, but this time, Sirigu was equal to the goalbound effort, while Alexander-Arnold’s follow-up was blocked for a corner. Keïta would see a pot-shot from 20 yards deflected over the bar, before Oliver blew his whistle.
Wholesale changes were made for the second half, with Klopp keeping a firm eye on Sunday’s season opener against West Ham, and fans were treated to a rare formation change, as the Reds came out in a 4-4-2. Daniel Sturridge sat behind Danny Ings up top, while Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri manned the flanks. Marko Grujic joined Curtis Jones in the middle, while Fabinho offered an emergency centre-back solution.
If you’d been paying attention in pre-season, the bright spots were predictable; a lean and hungry Sturridge popped up all over the place, looking to provide for his striking partner, Shaqiri produced another encouraging performance, and Curtis Jones looks an absolute baller. The latter drove an effort wide of the post following a corner on 48 minutes, before a delightful outside the boot through ball from Sturridge found Ings, but the former Burnley man hooked his left-footed effort well wide of the far post.
Minutes later, having drifted to the left side of the pitch, Shaqiri picked up the ball and swept it across to Alexander-Arnold, whose pass found Sturridge in the centre of the box. An excellent touch, turn and dribble later, he was one-on-one with Sirigu, but the Italian was equal to the effort.
The Shaqiri-Trent combination went close again on the hour mark, as the Swiss attacker cut inside from the right, slipping a reverse pass down the flank for the 19-year old. His chipped cross found the chest of Ings in the middle of the box, but the Englishman’s footing abandoned him as he moved past his marker, and, forced to take his shot laying down, he was unable to best Sirigu.
As both sides made the last of their substitutions, the game slowed down considerably, and it would be 20 minutes before another solid opportunity was created. After a pair of passes propelled the Reds through midfield, Adam Lallana found Sturridge in the box, but the right-footed pass towards the near corner rolled just past the post.
There would be another, however, as Shaqiri, again cutting in from the right, missed a backheeled pass attempt, but picked up his own loose ball and lobbed a delightful chip into to Daniel Sturridge, who got just enough forehead on leather action to ensure Sirigu was unable to prevent the ball from nestling in the far corner.
In injury time, M’Baye Niang popped up on the end of a long through-ball, getting his toe to it ahead of Loris Karius, but the Senegalese striker’s effort bounced just past the far post and out of play.
A solid, well-deserved win, as Liverpool look fully prepared to take on West Ham on Sunday. There may be rightful concerns about the team’s health and depth at centre-back, but otherwise, every player likely to start looks fit and ready to rock.
Proper football is just a couple days away.