Liverpool 1 - 1 Athletic Bilbao
Liverpool: Jota 13’
Athletic Bilbao: Berenguer 53’
There are fans in Anfield! I repeat, there are fans in Anfield! Reports are saying close to 40,000 fans have made their way to the stadium for the preseason friendly, which just goes to show how excited people are to see the Reds (insert Manchester City “crowds” joke here). The crowds were out to greet the team bus too. It is so nice to have a proper atmosphere.
As for the actual team, this is probably a pretty good indication of who might line up against Norwich for the first Premier League game in less than a weeks time. Young Harvey Elliott is being trusted yet again with a starting role in midfield, showing just how much Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp trusts the 18 year old. Virgil van Dijk is also fit enough to start for the second friendly in a row, giving fans hope he just might be in line feature in the starting line up against Norwich.
It should be noted that there is another friendly tomorrow against Osasuna, so the bench is considerably weaker than normal. The likes of Ibou Konaté, Fabinho, and Roberto Firmino are not on the bench, so should feature tomorrow. It is also being reported that Jordan Henderson and Thiago should be in line for minutes tomorrow.
Kick off has been delayed a couple of times now due to issues with getting fans into the stadium. Liverpool have gone to paperless ticketing this year, so it’s a preseason workout to figure out the kinks for the stadium staff and fans as well apparently.
After a 30 minute delay, we finally get to hear You’ll Never Walk Alone ring out around Anfield! Yeah, definitely got a little bit misty-eyed for a moment there.
Just 30 seconds in and we see the first pinpoint long diagonal from Virgil van Dijk to Mohamed Salah. Nothing comes of it, but damn it is nice to see that again. Van Dijk has to do some defensive work just a minute later, forcing a cross to come in flatter across the face of goal than the Bilbao player had hoped, and the ball goes all the way across the face of goal to Trent Alexander-Arnold in his right back spot.
Athletic Bilbao are doing a very nice job of pressing early on here. Should provide a good test for the defenders and midfielders to work through.
Liverpool have a nice spot of sustained possession around the Athletic Bilbao box in the 6th minute. Harvey Elliott and Naby Keita did a nice job of moving the ball and then moving into space to receive the ball again.
Athletic Bilbao created a very nice chance in the 10th minute as a perfectly weighted pass to Berenguer just evades Andrew Robertson. The Spanish attacker slid the ball back across the box, but Trent Alexander-Arnold was able to get a toe to the ball and disrupt the strike of the attacker just enough to keep the ball from going on frame.
GOAL DIOGO JOTA!!!! Liverpool press the short free kick, and Naby Keita wins the ball back off of an errant touch. He immediately fed Sadio Mané just inside the box, who immediately flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Jota. The Portuguese player took just a touch before smashing a low left-footed drive across the face of the keeper and into the far corner.
Liverpool are almost immediately back on the front foot in a fluid counter attack. The ball was shuffled from the right side of the field to the left, and Jota was this time just unable to put the ball on frame from just a few yards out. Scintillating stuff from Liverpool there, with Mané again providing the feed for Jota.
Liverpool are FEELING it! Liverpool earn a corner from the left side, which doesn’t amount to much. The ball is recovered and brought back upfield, eventually finding its way back to Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was still on the left side of the field. Trent cut inside on his right foot and hit a delicious shot towards the far corner, but the Athletic Bilbao keeper made a fantastic diving save to keep the ball out.
Alisson Becker is called into action for the first time in the 20th minute as a ball is clipped over the top to Williams. Alisson came out quickly to close down the space and force the attacker wide as the defenders scrambled to get back. Alisson stuck with Williams and forced a poor shot. Liverpool’s keeper is already earning that new contract.
Close by Harvey Elliott! The youngster received the ball from Trent Alexander Arnold just outside the D at the top of the 18. He immediately picked his head up and saw no one closing him down so he whipped a left-footed effort just inches wide of the far post.
Alisson again is on the top of his game in the 28th minute. Naby Keita was fairly tackled after getting the ball stuck in his feed a little outside of the Liverpool box. The ball took a deflection on the resulting shot, and Alisson had to quickly shift his feet to get under the looping ball to catch is just before it crossed the line.
A goal by Sadio Mané was deemed to be offised just a minute later. Trent Alexander-Arnold to a free kick quickly from just inside his own half, dropping it perfectly into the path of Mané. The linesman raised his flag just as the Senegalese player slipped the ball into the net, and the replay shows he was just offside.
Another couple of chances for Liverpool! First was a corner whipped in byTrent from the right side. Virgil van Dijk leaped over everyone and powered a header just past the far post. Just moments later, Liverpool worked the ball down the right flank, and Mohamed Salah cut in on his left before curling the ball towards far post himself. The keeper was able to just get a hand on the ball to turn it around the post.
Alisson again comes up big. Athletic Bilbao are asking questions of the Liverpool defense, this time with a ball slipped in to Williams down the middle. Alisson got down quickly to deny the goal.
Virgil van Dijk AGAIN almost scores for Liverpool off of a corner. Mohamed Salah won the corner with some good effort down the right flank. Trent Alexander-Arnold delivered the ball all the way across the face of goal to van Dijk, who’s diving header was a yard wide of the goal. It looked like the corner was designed to go deep like that, with van Dijk looping his run wide.
Yikes, Andy Robertson goes down and stays down after blocking a cross. It looks like his studs got stuck in the turf as he foot hit while sliding forward, and his ankle bent back. Robertson was able to limp off with the help of the medical staff, but it looks like his day is done. Let’s hope it is nothing too serious.
The referee blows for half time just a couple of moments after Robertson hobbled off. Some stellar attacking stuff from the Reds as well as some defensive bobbles. Thankfully Alisson seems to be in midseason form to keep the visitors scoreless. James Milner is certainly no Fabinho playing in that holding role, and it seems like some of those balls squeezing through would likely be cut out by the lanky Brazilian when he is fit.
With the regular subs not part of the team due to the friendly tomorrow, 18 year old Owen Beck came on in place of the injured Andy Robertson at left back to start the second half. No other subs were made to start the half as the rest of the squad are expected to play the majority of the game.
Owen Beck almost had a dream start. The young left back got up field well to win a ball outside the Athletic Bilbao box. He drove to the end line, showing good strength to hold off a defender, and then cut the ball back across goal. The ball found its way to Diogo Jota in the middle of the box, but there was no power on the resulting shot.
Goal Athletic Bilbao. The Basque side showed some wonderful ball movement around the box, starting with Inaki Williams sliding the ball through the legs of Joel Matip to Sancet. The attacker Spanish attacker was able to just beat Virgil van Dijk to the ball, and slid it across the face of goal for Berenguer to tap home at the far post.
Liverpool again have an opportunity from a corner kick. This time, the ball got knocked down for Diogo Jota in the center of the box, but he blazed his effort over the bar. It’s nice to see Liverpool consistently look threatening on set pieces again.
Harvey Elliott is some player. He dipped his shoulder deep in his own half to freeze a defender and ran onto a ball rather than try to control it first and then turn. He progressed the ball midway into the attacking half before sliding a perfectly weighted ball for Mohamed Salah to run on to. Salah immediately squared the ball, but a defender just got to the ball before Jota, who was making a run from the left.
Big chance for Liverpool! James Milner slid a pass into Naby Keita near the top of the box. Keita turned and took a touch before feeding the ball to Sadio Mané near the penalty spot. Mané made a brilliant turn and drilled a shot, but it was right at the keeper for a simple save.
Ben Woodburn and Rhys Williams come in for Diogo Jota and Virgil van Dijk in the 71st minute. Virgil still doesn’t look fully back to match sharpness, but it is great to see him get some good, hard minutes in. His presence pinging the ball from the back, as well as on set pieces, was greatly missed. Jota did his usual thing of not exactly being involved, but always popping up when the ball got into a dangerous area.
HARVEY ELLIOTT OFF THE CROSSBAR!!! Elliott has been absolutely everywhere. This time, he stays wide to receive a ball after Mohamed Salah tucked further inside. Elliott drove into the box, froze his defender with some quick footwork, and then cut the ball back and unleashed a brilliant strike that beat the keeper, but clanged off of the intersection of the crossbar and post. Literally inches from being a postage stamp goal. The Child has arrived y’all.
Harvey Elliott then gets a fist pump from the manager after tracking back 30 yards to slide in and break up a counter attack. That was after a magnificent first time flick to drop the ball into the path of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool make another double change. bringing on Tyler Morton and Jake Cain for Naby Keita and Harvey Elliott in the 83rd minute. Naby had some solid moments, but it was definitely Harvey Elliott that stole the show in the midfield today.
No surprise that the game is getting a little ragged with a bunch of substituions on both sides, but Liverpool’s kids are making a good showing of it. Ben Woodburn does well on the press, and eventually the ball falls to Tyler Morton 25 yards out. Morton takes a whack at the ball, but puts it wide. A couple of minutes later, Owen Beck again wins the ball on the left side, drives the ball forward, and whips the ball into the box.
The referee blows the final whistle, and Liverpool finish the day with a 1-1 draw.
All in all, not a bad tune up for the season opener. Athletic Bilboa pressed high, forcing Liverpool to work to progress the ball up the field. They also showed some nice ball movement, making Liverpool have to communicate and move on the defensive end. At the end of the day, Liverpool looked very sharp moving the ball, and generated a large number of chances. Unfortunately, they only converted one of them.
Diogo Jota got the goal, and had several other opportunities, but it was Harvey Elliott who really stole the show. The young midfielder looks like he’s been playing in this role for years, showing intelligent movement, great combination play, and unreal touch and vision. Sadio Mané also looked fantastic on the attacking end, showing his usual tight turns with the ball to throw defenders off. Trent Alexander-Arnold had some spectacular deliveries from the right wing, and looks to be ready to create another big number of assists. Finally, Alisson was sensational in the few moments he was really needed.
The biggest outcome from the match, however, was the injury to Andy Robertson. It would seem likely that he will be out for at least a couple of weeks, and potentially more depending on the severity of his ankle injury. It will be a big opportunity for Kostas Tsimikas to step into a starting role, and the Greek defender has looked like he is ready so far this preseason.
Liverpool will be back in action tomorrow for another friendly at Anfield, this time against Osasuna.