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Liverpool 4, Karlsruher 2: Liverpool Leave it Late in Pre-Season Win

An injury-time brace from Diogo Jota made sure the Reds kick off their pre-season with a bang.

Karlsruher SC v Liverpool FC - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Liverpool 4: Núñez 3’, Gakpo 69’, Jota 90+2’, 90+3’
Karlsruher 2: Stindl 39’, Jung 50’

We are officially off, as Liverpool’s pre-season begins in earnest with a 4-2 win over Zweite Bundesliga side Karlsruher SC. As per in the early pre-season, the Reds began the match with something of a make-shift — albeit surprisingly strong — line-up, as Trent Alexander-Arnold straight up played as a deep-lying playmaker, flanked by Bobby Clark and Dominik Szoboszlai, who alternated which side of the Englishman they patrolled.

Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté manned the centre of defense, while Conor Bradley was handed the unfamiliar role of inverted full-back, drifting into the middle alongside Trent rather than bursting up and down the flank as is his wont. Up top, Mohamed Salah and Luis Díaz played either side of Darwin Núñez.

Things started off about as well as possible, with Núñez pouncing on a loose ball in behind, attempted to play in Salah, then tucked the ball home when the Egyptian returned the favour. 1-0 and a hot start for the Uruguayan who will look to establish himself as the deadly finisher we saw at Benfica this season.

Things slowed down considerably from there, with Karlsruher offering little on the ball and the Reds failing to break them down consistently, as, despite myriad rotations and complex patterns in build-up, they lacked weight in the box as the ball was worked into the final third.

With five minutes left in the half, and after finding a foothold in the game — forcing Caoimhín Kelleher into an excellent save — the hosts equalised, as former German international Lars Stindl absolutely battered a volley in off the crossbar following a corner from Liverpool’s right side. Darwin went close to getting the Reds their lead back with a well-worked header, but the half ended all square.

The Reds swapped all 11 players at the half, handing debuts to Vítězslav Jaroš, Calum Scanlon, Jarell Quansah, James McConnell and Alexis Mac Allister, as the full-back Scanlon took up position on the flank, Kostas Tsimikas inverted into the centre, and Cody Gakpo played as an eight in midfield.

It was unfamiliar stuff, and Karlsruher took immediate advantage, going 2-1 in front five minutes into the frame, as calamity in Liverpool’s backline area left Sebastian Jung in acres of space, streaking into the box and hammering the ball into the top corner.

Liverpool were in control for the remainder of the game, but struggled to create clear cut chances, as their opponents sat deep and denied them space. Alexis looked tidy, combining with team-mates around the box, while Quansah looked large if a little rough around the edges, but it wasn’t until the 69th minute they could find an equaliser.

A floated cross to the back post found Diogo Jota, who headed the ball across goal to Cody Gakpo. An expertly executed swivel and a swing later, it was 2-2, as the Dutchman curled the ball into the back of the net from close range.

A late surge from Karlsruher in the final minutes of regulation time made it seem as though the hosts perhaps were more likely to eke out the win, but as injury time rolled around, Diogo Jota pounced to secure the win, first by slaloming through three quarters of the Karlsruher defence and slotting the ball under the keeper, then just a minute later, latching onto an Alexis through ball and slicing it home with the greatest ease.

All in all, not a bad way to start things off, although this writer remains somewhat skeptical of the new system and whether it actually gels particularly well with the personell that has been built over a long period of time for a different formation entirely.

A win is a win is a win however, and in only five days’ time the Reds will be looking for another, as they face another Zweite Bundesliga side in the Bavarians of Greuter Fürth.

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