RB Salzburg 1 - 0 Liverpool
RB Salzburg: Sesko 31’
A highly experimental side starts for the Reds, with Isaac Mabaya and Stefan Bajcetic getting another start at full-back and defensive midfield, respectively, while Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho flank Darwin Núñez up top. The big guns are kept in reserve, likely with an eye on a late run-out.
The Reds take control of proceedings early, and Darwin has two opportunties within the opening ten minutes, first getting slipped through by Naby Keïta but getting blocked off by Oumar Solet, then electing to go with a jumping header following James Milner’s long through ball, when a standing one or a chest and volley would have been better options.
It’s all about the Uruguayan in the opening half of the frame, as teammates consistently find him in the opposition area. Solet manages to nick the ball off him in time despite having been put on his behind by the attacker’s lovely chested touch and turn, then Núñez smacks a first-time effort off the cross-bar after making a diagonal run onto Mabaya’s reverse pass.
Back and fort action for a second here, as at the other end, Salzburg let off a warning shot, with Fernando somehow manageing to miss an open net after Adrian had saved Sesko’s initial effort, before a slight delay in releasing the ball from Keïta sees a double Darwin opportunity blocked by some heroic defending.
The hosts then take the lead on the hour mark, as Fernando and Sesko combine through an out of sync Gomez and Konaté, allowing the Slovenian striker to slot home alone with Adrian.
Harvey Elliott gets involved, first releasing Mabaya with a reverse ball into the box but the young fullback can’t make clean contact with the ball, before combining with the same man to curl an effort towards goal from outside the area.
The Reds go into the half a goal down, despite being the better side, and Darwin Núñez somehow has jothing to show for his efforts. Salzburg have looked resolute on defence and opportunistic in attack, however, with Oumar Solet and Benjamin Sesko in particular impressing.
Just the three substitutions at the half, with Roberto Firmino, Tyler Morton and Andy Robertson replacing Darwin, Keïta and Milner.
The Reds immediately go about the business of getting a goal back, as Elliott plays a crossfield one-two with Robertson, switching the ball to the fullback and racing towards the back post, but the 19-year old can’t quite reach the Scot’s cross.
Despite a sustained period of pressure, however, the Reds can’t quite get the ball to fall right in front of goal, and on the hour mark, Jürgen Klopp brings out what is likely the starting XI for Saturday’s Community Shield, as Joël Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Thiago, Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah replace Gomez, Konaté, Mabaya, Bajcetic, Morton, Jones, Carvalho and Elliott.
The rest of the half is played entirely in the Salzburg half, as the Reds lay siege to their opponents and continually push the ball into the box, winning at back as soon as it’s cleared, and driving forward again. Diaz goes close twice, first at the end of a Thiago-led break, then racing onto a Trent crossfield pass, but the goalkeeper’s leg and his own first touch get in the Colombian’s way.
With fifteen minutes to go, the pressure keeps ramping up, with Salah hitting the goalkeeper from a narrow angle, then arriving just ahead of the ball when the goalkeeper parries a curled Firmino effort into his path.
The Egyptian then finds Fabinho in the area with a cutback following a corner, but, again, the Brazilian fails to make clean contact with the ball, and the goalkeeper collects the harmless shot comfortably.
Five minutes from time, Diaz has the ball in the back of the net, but Firmino’s release was just a step too slow, and the linesman rightly flags for offside. There’s no time to rest, however, as Nico Mantl, having one of the games of his life, has to stretch all the way into the top corner to palm away a Trent belter from 25 yards,
Over the course of the final five minutes, the Reds set up Salah twice from the left flank, but on neither occasion will the ball drop appropriately onto the Egyptian’s lethal left peg, and when a wild last-ditch tackle sees the defender get a toe on the ball before clearing out Diaz, it becomes clear that this simply wasn’t going to be Liverpool’s night.
Despite dominating throughout, generating a total of 25 shots, 18 from inside the area, the Reds simply can’t find a finish, in the sort of performance that one hopes will now be out of the way for a while.
Darwin Núñez didn’t add to his pre-season tally, but he did hit the bar, and has now generated 14 shots in 145 minutes of game time, a number that bodes extremely well for the season to come.
Elsewhere, the uptick in interplay and intensity following the substitutions on the hour mark suggests that the XI that saw out the game is the one that will start at the weekend, having gotten a short, high-intensity run-out in the final pre-season game before something resembling a significant fixture.
Three days until the sort-of serious business starts. Grab your popcorn.