LIVERPOOL 1 - 0 FSV MAINZ 05
Liverpool: Killian (OG) 86’
Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain line up as a front three to start, with Mané coming in following a goal last time out. The winger appears to have returned refreshed after a much-deserved long holiday. Neither Joe Gomez nor Virgil Van Dijk feature in the squad, as Joël Matip and Ibrahima Konaté start at the center of defense — perhaps a preview of how Liverpool will line up to start the season.
As with any pre-season game, the central goal today is progression in match fitness and hitting tactical targets, and we can expect players to get 45 minutes in today, building on the 30-minute mini-games played back on Tuesday.
The mood going into the game is positive, with plenty of players returning to fitness or, like Mané, coming off relaxing holidays. The pleasant mood was perhaps boosted by an unexpected visitor: Yaya Touré visited the training camp to observe and have a chat with Jürgen Klopp; the former Manchester City man wants to become a manager. Reds fans will have enjoyed his choice of LFC shorts.
The first half team — which might well be close to the starting XI for the opening match of the upcoming season with just a few changes — was industrious and bright if a bit disjointed at times in shape and passing. There were a lot of moments to make you optimistic, including Matip’s early vertical passing, Naby Keïta’s use of the ball, Salah’s runs and Mané’s confidence in possession, and Harvey Elliot’s balls into the box that were often ever so close to being the perfect ball in.
Liverpool unlucky not to be on the scoresheet after a few instances of last-ditch defending from Mainz, but nonetheless showed a lot of promise in and around the Mainz penalty area. The Reds were strong in defense at the other side of the pitch as well, even if the Mainz chances that were well-defended in the end could largely have been prevented earlier in a given move.
A number of these players’ performances reminded us just how good they are, and how useful they could be if they can remain injury-free long enough to build up a bit of rhythm (with Keïta and Oxlade-Chamberlain at the top of this list). Yet again, this feels like a Very Important Season for Naby Keïta.
As expected, a rotated team came out for the second half, giving us the chance to see a lot of the younger players (and perhaps a look at who is in the shop window).
11 changes at the break— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 23, 2021
Here's how we'll line-up for the second-half against Mainz 05!
Mainz started the second half brightly and probably should have scored early on with a set of passes that flashed in front of goal, but no Mainz player was in to meet them (though Adrián didn’t do a lot to inspire confidence, but is, lest we forget, our third choice keeper now).
Divock Origi was influential early, showing calmness on the ball and making smart decisions; you felt like any attacking impetus would come through him. As a team, the Reds turned on the organized press quite well, trapping Mainz in their final third on a few occasions. On the whole, however, Mainz felt a bit stronger in the second half, while the Reds felt weaker — which is to be expected when you play your second team.
The second half somehow simultaneously felt a bit flat whilst also being, at times, end-to-end stuff. Kaide Gordon found himself with a solid chance in the final 20 minutes, but saw his low shot saved by the Mainz keeper. Minutes later, Nat Phillips and Billy Koumetio found themselves in a three-on-two situation, but handled it admirably; Adrián made a smart save off of the ensuring corner.
And then, amidst the chaos, Liverpool got a goal: a nice ball in from Owen Beck found Mainz’s Luca Killian unable to get out of the way, as the defender was found himself on the scoresheet with an own goal. A few minutes later, Mainz themselves were perhaps unlucky to not score in a bit of chaos in front of the Liverpool goal. Not pretty stuff, but we came out of it alright in the end.
As the referee hates pretty football, a late effort from Gordon was flagged for offside, and the game ended without added time.
Look, it’s pre-season, and the main goal here is progress in fitness and in terms of tactical targets. Despite not being privy to specific performance targets, there was quite a bit for fans to think about, and the first half in particular was quite bright.
Konaté looks the part at the center of defense, and Keïta is, yet again, doing bits that might make some of us gain hope (again). Having a fully rested Salah and Mané — both of whom got lengthy holidays for once — is something to look forward to. Elliot has continued to ask questions about the size of his role in the team this season.
Though the quality dipped, as expected, in the second half, there was ample opportunity to discuss potential sales (particularly following the emerging news of an impending Harry Wilson move to Fulham). Taki Minamino, Divock Origi, and Nat Phillips were at the center of the sales chat.
While the first half had all the flash, the second half had the goal; above all, though, Liverpool look in solid shape ahead of the upcoming season. And getting a win is nice, isn’t it?