Reds fans should be no strangers to high-scoring EFL Cup results, with Liverpool partaking in both a 5-5 draw and a 0-5 loss in the competition last year. It was more unencumbered fun this time round though, as the Reds reserves lit up the LNER Stadium in a nine-goal shootout, having practically wrapped it all up by half time.
Lots of positives to take away from a game that featured three debutants and some impressive performances from squad players. Below we take a closer look at some of them.
Takumi Minamino: After being eased into the team following his January transfer this year, the former RB Salzburg man has really begun coming into his own in Red. Following on from his goal in the Community Shield, Minamino scored two and set up one against the Imps, and was a constant source of trouble for the hosts, drifting into the half-space and knitting play together in a remarkable Roberto Firmino impersonation.
The Japanese attacker appears to have figured out the press as well, and his harrying of opposition defenders was a large part of the reason the Reds boasted 72% possession throughout the match, denying Lincoln any opportunity to build from the back.
Time will tell how often Minamino will feature this season, but it is encouraging to know that when he does, the front line will not lose as much of its potency as has been the case over the past three years.
Curtis Jones: While his tendency to go for low-percentage effort from range with a regularity rarely seen under Jürgen Klopp will undoubtedly irritate some, the 19-year old does so many things right and has so much swagger and confidence in his game that trying to curtail his penchant for the audacious would likely only hinder his development at this point.
The young scouser put his abilities on full display tonight, with five shots — all taken in the opening 35 minutes — four dribbles, two tackles, two interceptions, and a gorgeous brace of curlers into the far corner. His physical development over the past year indicates that he is now more than ready to compete at the senior level, and the only question is how many Premier League appearances he will make this season.
Squad Building: It hasn’t been that long since a Liverpool side making ten changes before facing a League One team would’ve felt like much more of an even match-up. Tonight was a rout, and that is largely down to the fact that the Reds now have genuine, real-life quality in depth, all due to a combination of recruitment, youth development and coaching. Of the depth pieces, none looked out of place at this level, and a few looked like they might legitimately push those ahead of them on the depth chart for minutes.
Fabinho-at-Centrebackers: Although the Brazilian was excellent in a backline that consistently dropped deeper in transition against a Chelsea side that did not predict or adjust to that strategy, nor had the chance to push numbers forward following Andreas Christensen dismissal, his second half performance here was less encouraging.
As Lincoln — five goals down — threw caution to the win and attacked in numbers, Fabinho’s limited pace, floundering feet in tight spaces, and lack of familiarity with the role was put on display, and the former Monaco man was at least partially at fault in both Lincoln goals, as well as a number of other opportunities the Imps carved out.
Of course, he was playing next to a 19-year old making his senior debut rather than Virgil van Dijk, and one assumes that any future appearances in the role will be alongside the latter, but this performance should provide pause for those who are convinced that the Reds going into the season with three senior centre-backs is entirely unprooblematic because of the existence of Fabinho.
Credit to the Opposition
After getting thoroughly beaten up in the first half — and receiving a fifth only 17 seconds in the second — Michael Appleton’s charges rallied impressively, and caused plenty of trouble for their visitors. With nine shots — three of which were classified as big chances — the Imps forced Adrián into four saves in the final 45, as well as scoring two goals, and the League One outfit were absolutely fearless when nothing was left to lose.
Expected to partake in a promotion race this season, Lincoln City’s players should take heart from their second half performance here, as they proved they could give a good account of themselves against Premier League opposition. Just try not to concede five first, lads.
What Happens Next
It’s a relatively quick turnaround for the Reds as they host Arsenal in a Premier Legue fixture on Monday, looking to avenge their penalty shootout loss in the Community Shield back in August. After that, the boys will have nearly a full week’s rest before they travel to Birmingham to take on Aston Villa.