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Liverpool 3, VfB Stuttgart 0 — Match Recap and Digging Deeper

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Liverpool controlled the first half and some of the kids stood out in the second. In the end, it was a preseason game and no one (from Liverpool) got hurt.

Liverpool v VfB Stuttgart - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Liverpool 3 - 0 VfB Stuttgart

Liverpool: Firmino 15’, Naby Keita 41, Rhian Brewster 68

Pre-Match

After a brief respite and a shortened preseason, Liverpool are back out there again to get ready for the next season. Jurgen Klopp has fielded just about as strong a side as possible to start as they prepare for the Community Shield against Arsenal in a week. Neco Williams and Curtis Jones are the only two who are not regular starters who take the field to start the match today. They take on a VfB Stuttgart side who earned promotion to the Bundesliga after finishing second in 2. Bundesliga last season. Nathanial Phillips was on loan to the German side last season.

First Half

The Liverpool players walk out in their new Nike strip for the first time, looks pretty nice. The rain is pouring down the the whistle blows to start the match. Let’s avoid any slips and muscle pulls, lads.

Virgil van Dijk doesn’t waste any time sending a beautiful long ball over the top that the keeper gets to just before Mo Salah just outside the box. A few minutes later, Liverpool work the ball up the field quite well before Andrew Robertson overcooks a cross.

The field is quite soggy, and has helped cause a few turnovers on either side. Both teams counterattack off of turnovers, but nothing comes of it on either end.

Curtis Jones does a great job receiving the ball under pressure in his own half, turns from the pressure and bursts upfield before laying it off to Roberto Firmino. Jones continues his run and eventually gets the ball from Sadio Mane in the box, turns his man, but his left footed effort doesn’t have enough pace to beat the keeper.

GOAL LIVERPOOL! The young Scouser Curtis Jones is involved again, receiving the ball on the left edge of the box before driving to the end line and cutting it back for the waiting Roberto Firmino to tap it in. Liverpool are technically the hosts, so I guess that counts as a Firmino goal at home?

Virgil van Dijk casually lopes back to snuff out a counter. It will never got old seeing how calm he is under pressure.

Another nice sequence as Sadio Mane gets spring down the left. He squares it into the box for Naby Keita, who beats the first man, but just can’t get the ball out of his feet to get a good shot off.

Daniel Didavi weaves his way past Neco Williams on the left and gets a shot off. The shot is deflected, and squeaks past the post of Alisson Becker.

The linesman has the audacity to call Sadio Mane offside. How dare you, sir!

Oh yikes. Erik Thommy gets knocked off of the ball by a shoulder barge from Joseph Gomez, and goes sliding into the boards on the slick surface. He’s writhing in pain, looks like his arm is injured. It wasn’t dirty from Gomez, but it was a strong challenge.

Curtis Jones shows considerable strength holding the ball with three VfB Stuttgart players around him, and eventually draws a foul. The youngster has been extremely impressive thus far.

Someone is honking their car horn in the parking lot. Wonder if it’s Neco William’s mum letting him know she has his orange slices in the car for half time.

Another Stuttgart player down, this time Roberto Massimo. Massimo had fouled Sadio Mane, but looks to have hurt his ankle in the process. Always the gentleman, Mane helps Massimo off the field. What a classy lad.

The resulting free kick is lofted into the box by Andy Robertson, but puts his header just wide of the post. The Dutch defender usually buries it from that range.

GOAL LIVERPOOL! Naby Keita takes a brilliant no-look back heel from Roberto Firmino as he enters the box, squares up to the keeper, and slides the ball into the net. It was a well worked goal with the ball moving quickly from Keita to Salah to Firmino and back to Keita.

Stuttgart get a couple bites at the apple in quick succession, but Liverpool manage to clear the ball away and counter themselves. Andy Robertson carries the ball towards the box and elects to hit a left footed strike instead of laying it off the the numerous runners ahead of him. The strike goes just wide of the post.

The half ends 2-0 to Liverpool. The Reds controlled the game for the most part in the poor conditions. I expect we’ll see an entirely changed squad at half time.

Second Half

It’s a fully changed side in the second half, and we get our first glimpse of the new left back, Konstantinos Tsimikas. James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum will anchor a very youthful side in the second half.

Players slipping all over the field to start the half off. The ball also hits a couple spots on the field and just stops dead. This should be fun.

Takumi Minamino slips a delightful ball into Rhian Brewster at the top of the box. Brewster tries to beat his man, and goes down under pressure. The ref waves off Brewster’s cries for a penalty.

Minamino with a slick turn, then lofts the ball into the right side of the box for the onrushing Harvey Elliott. Ellitott just can’t quite bring the ball down in his control, but it was another very nice move started by Minamino.

Harvey Elliott takes a free kick off of James Milner. Bold choice, young man. The free kick actually looks goal bound with the keeper beat, but it caroms off of a Liverpool player and slides past the near post for a goal kick.

I love James Milner. With no fans and no fan sounds piped in, you can clearly hear him yell “Kostas, fucking hell” as he did not get a return ball in a good position.

No surprise, but Liverpool are much more disjointed here in the second half, leading to a much more open game with opportunities for both sides. Tsimikas does a great job flying across to the right side of Liverpool’s goal to block a ball behind for a corner kick. Good recognition from the Greek player.

GOAL LIVERPOOL! It’s a nice team goal as the move starts on the right, goes through 5-6 Liverpool players before it is squared across to Rhian Brewster to tap in. The young Englishman just has a nose for where and when to be in front of goal.

The Ginger Giant, Sepp ven den Berg makes way for 17 year old Billy Koumetio at center half. Koumetio might be the largest 17 year old I have ever seen.

Harvey Elliott whips in a beautiful ball for Takumi Minamino. The Stuttgart keeper is quick off of his line to get to the ball just before Minamino. Great vision and touch from Elliott on that pass, and a great run from Minamino.

Adrian makes a good reaction save on a ball driven across goal towards the far post. Stuttgart have started to control stretches of the game, and the young, makeshift defense is getting caught out more frequently. As I type this, Adrian has to make another good save, turning the shot around the post for a corner. Koumetio rises above everyone to head the ball clear. Have I mentioned that he is a really big 17 year old?

Holy hell Harvey Elliott. The 17 year old with just and audacious little first time chip over a defender onto the head of James Milner, who just can’t quite shape his header to put it on the inside of the post.

The clock strikes 89:57, and the referee decides he’s had enough, blowing the whistle to end the match.

Final Thoughts

Liverpool thoroughly controlled the first half with what was pretty close to their regular starting unit. With such a short turnaround after the last season ended, there wasn’t the usual preseason rust. The second half was much more disjointed with a completely changed side. Still, there were several encouraging signs. Kostas Tsimikas showed us that we have a real live back up left fullback, which definitely will make me sleep better at night. Billy Koumetio also showed that we may have another budding superstar at center back.

Who Impressed

Curtis Jones: The youngster was given a starting spot in a really strong side, and was one of the standouts of the first half. Jones was frequently involved with his surging runs. He also showed good strength several times holding defenders off the ball. He made a very smart decision with his pass to Bobby Firmino, and it led to a goal.

Naby Keita: The midfielder continued his stellar form to finish out the season in the first half today. Keita quietly ran the game in the midfield, gliding past players on the dribble before making incisive passes. Keita finished the half off with a goal from a move he started further back int he midfield.

Takumi Minamino: The Japanese striker stepped in and played the Bobby Firmino role with aplomb. He dropped deep to receive the ball, and did a really nice job of then turning and playing the ball to players running into the space he vacated. Minamino looks much more settled and integrated, and seems ready to step in when needed.

Harvey Elliott: The 17 year old didn’t get on the ball a ton, but every time he did, he was electric. His vision and his touch are well beyond his age. He almost set up a goal for James Milner, and also struck a solid shot on goal.

What’s Next

Liverpool will continue their preseason with a match against Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday.