MK Dons 0 - 2 Liverpool
Liverpool: Milner 41’, Hoever 69’
As expected, it is a completely changed side from the one that kicked off against Chelsea on the weekend. It’s an experienced midfield trio of Naby Keita (welcome back!), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Adam Lallana. And on the other end of the spectrum is academy goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, Ki-Jana Hoever at right back, and exciting young attackers Rhian Brewster, Curtis Jones, and Harvey Elliott. James Milner is out there with a walker, somewhere. If Liverpool do the business tonight, it’ll likely have to be with their starting XI—all the typical “big hitters” have been left at home for some much needed rest.
Brewster and Elliott combine early, nearly playing Brewster through on goal. If Rhian’s boots had been a half a size larger, he very well could have gotten there. Moments later, Dejan Lovren shows why he’s no longer top choice to partner Virgil van Dijk; he gets pretty easily muscled off the ball when isolated out wide, and Lallana follows it up by doing his best to give away a pen. The move ends when the home side put an effort on an open goal well over the bar. Lucky.
Something tells me this won’t end 0-0. Milner works his way into the box from left back, squares it to a wide-open Elliott at the back stick, who can only manage to guide it onto the underside of the bar. Unlucky.
The Traveling Kop belting out “We are the champions, champions of Europe!” followed by “Allez, Allez, Allez” to third-tier MK Dons. I’m into it.
God damn, we have a player on our hands in Elliott. He just nutmegged one defender, then skinned another before floating an inch-perfect cross to the back stick for Milner to run onto. Unfortuntely, Milly couldn’t turn the header on target. But still, fantastic from Reds, old and young alike.
Kelleher appears to get away with one. It looks like he came to collect a ball just outside of the box, but the infraction goes uncalled.
Goal! Liverpool have had some excellent build up play and opportunities to open the scoring. This was...not that. Just before the half Milner decides to have a go from the edge of the area. He drills the shot straight at the keeper, who somehow manages to make a complete mess of it, spilling it into his own net into the process. Well, they all count.
Harvey Elliott makes the net bulge! Granted, it’s the wrong side of net, but he still managed to get himself into a good position. The former Fulham youngster continues to look like an exciting signing.
The home side manage to fashion a couple of chances for the first time since the Degsy/Lallana debacle in the first half. The win a corner, work it short, and nearly turn the ensuing header on target. Kelleher was beaten, but the ball harmlessly bounces off the outside of the post, and out of play. The bounces—in this case literally—continue to fall for Liverpool.
Klopp makes his first change of the night, bringing on Pedro Chirivella for Keita. Naby has shows a few flashes of his brilliance, but is still obviously working to get up to speed. It was a good hour in the legs for the Guinean.
Goal!! This time it’s Milner turning provider. He drives into the box and hangs a tempting cross in the air for Hoever to run onto. The young Dutch defender rises to meet the cross, and nods it home with a towering and powerful header!
Ox nearly makes it a third with a fantastic effort from range that rattles the post. Unfortunately, the rebound inadvertently sprung a MK Dons counter. This time it was Gomez’s turn to get muscled off the ball, leading to a chance for the home side. And again, the hosts have a chance a moment later, with Kelleher coming up with a big save from point-blank range. The MK Dons are really going for it here, throwing bodies forward in an attempt to turn the tie around.
Klopp makes a second change, bringing on Kane, Herbie Kane, for Oxlade-Chamberlain. OxFamChamBlood made a pretty good show of it in the center of the park, and it’s an encouraging sign as he continues to make small steps in his lengthy injury recovery.
Elliott hits the post again. He’s been really exciting today, but just failed to open his account.
And Klopp makes his final sub: brining on one youth Dutch defender for another, Sepp van den Berg on for goalscorer Ki-Jana Hoever.
It’s about as good as you could hope for from the young, and disjointed side. There were a few nervy moments at the back, but it was a deserved win from the lads in Red, and a couple of promising performances from fringe players young and old. On to the next round.