Pre-Season 2014/2015

Liverpool have a host of glamorous pre-season friendlies against big names coming up over the summer as they prepare for their assault on the summit of the Premier League in the 2014/2015 season. Return regularly to this page to read short reviews on the following friendly fixtures:

16/7/14: Brondby 2-1 Liverpool (A) (17:00)
19/7/14- Preston North End 1-2 Liverpool (A) (15:00)
24/7/14- Roma 1-0 Liverpool (N) (00:30)
27/7/14- Olympiacos 0-1 Liverpool (N) (23:00)
31/7/14- Manchester City 2-2 Liverpool (Liverpool win 3-1 on penalties) (N) (00:00)
2/8/14- AC Milan 0-2 Liverpool (N) (23:30)
5/8/14- Manchester United 3-1 Liverpool (N) (01:00)
10/8/14- Liverpool 4-0 Borussia Dortmund (H) (12:15)

16/7/14- Brondby 2-1 Liverpool

The Reds began their pre-season campaign with a defeat in Denmark, losing 2-1 to Daniel Agger's former employers in Copenhagen. As expected, Rodgers picked a different team for each half, with a mixture of first team and youth players given a 45-minute run-out in Liverpool's first friendly fixture.

The hosts, who start their new season at the weekend and picked a full strength side, were understandably the better side and took the lead midway through the first period, Christian Norgaard curling past Brad Jones after Suso's poor scuffed clearance fell perfectly for the 20-year old former Hamburg midfielder.

Liverpool equalised soon after the interval, though, as Jordon Ibe, an impressive youngster on the fringes of the first team, skillfully set up number 54 Kristofer Peterson for a simple finish from close range.

Peterson peels away in celebration after levelling for Liverpool
Arguably the Merseysiders' stand-out performer during the second half, Ibe spurned a great chance to grab a winner for the visitors with ten minutes remaining and Rodgers' side were subsequently punished, as Fahan Hasani beat several defenders before firing past substitute stopper Ward to seal the win for Brondby in injury time.

At this stage, the result is of little consequence and it's all about building up match fitness ahead of the new season. I'm just glad to see Liverpool back in action again and am looking forward to their tour of North America, which starts when the squad jets off to FSG's home in Boston following their trip to Deepdale on Saturday.

19/7/14- Preston North End 1-2 Liverpool

Liverpool emerged victorious from their final friendly before they fly out to America on tour, coming from a goal behind to beat League One outfit Preston North End 2-1 at Deepdale. New signings Rickie Lambert and Emre Can were handed debuts by boss Brendan Rodgers, with the former donning the famous number nine shirt, although the latter only lasted 20 minutes before he was replaced by Ibe as a pre-caution.

Ibe later turned out to be the star of the show, although the home side were on top for the remainder of the first period and deservedly took the lead on the stroke of half time. A right wing corner was poorly dealt with by the Reds' defence and Josh Brownhill eventually turned home from close range.

The Merseysiders improved after the break, but left it late to steal the win. Ibe was at the heart of both goals, running purposefully and threateningly at Preston before finding Suso, who curled a beautiful effort past the keeper and into the corner of the net with 16 minutes remaining.

Suso and Ibe were the stars of the show
Five minutes later, Peterson scored Liverpool's second goal of the game and his second in pre-season, finding the back of the net after Ibe got to the by-line and pulled the ball back to the 19-year old Swede.

It's early days yet, but Ibe could emerge as a seriously talented young player this season, while Suso has bags of potential. Let's hope they both continue to impress in the States.

24/7/14- Roma 1-0 Liverpool

Liverpool fell to a one-goal defeat in front of principal owner John Henry at Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park, as Marco Borriello's 90th minute strike clinched a win for Italian side Roma, who had former Chelsea and Arsenal left back Ashley Cole among their ranks.

The first match of Liverpool's tour of the USA began fittingly with a tribute to the 96 Kopites who lost their lives at Hillsborough, as Fenway observed a minute's silence and 96 red balloons were released into the sky.

When the action began, goalmouth chances were few and far between in the sweltering American heat, although Liverpool controlled possession and created the best goalscoring chances, Coutinho firing a free kick just wide and Lambert cannoning a shot against a defender. For the Italians, Totti stabbed Cole's lofted left wing cross wide.

Excited Reds fans at Fenway
Perhaps the most significant event in the first half, however, was the shoulder injury picked up by Fabio Borini, which meant that he had to be replaced by Emre Can after only 12 minutes. Although Rodgers insists the injury isn't serious, it could stall the 23-year old's proposed £14 million move to Sunderland, particularly considering he was already reluctant to leave Merseyside.

The second half was much like the first, with Lambert remaining the Reds' main threat, seeing his hooked effort from Kelly's cross blocked and being denied by Roma's Polish goalkeeper Skorupski.

Jordan Henderson entered the fray with 15 minutes left, making his first pre-season appearance since returning from England's disappointing World Cup campaign, although there was nothing he could do to stop Roma's last gasp winner, as Borriello found the net from a right wing corner to end the contest on a low note for Liverpool.

27/7/14- Olympiacos 0-1 Liverpool

Raheem Sterling was in stellar form as the Reds claimed their first win of their American tour against Greek outfit Olympiacos in Chicago. The 19-year old's strike after only five minutes proved to be the difference between the two teams, as several star names returned to club football following the World Cup.

Rodgers made a total of eight changes from the one-goal defeat to Roma three days ago, with England quartet Johnson, Gerrard, Sterling and Sturridge all making their first appearances in pre-season. Meanwhile, new signing Lazar Markovic started his first game for the Merseysiders, impressing alongside Sterling and Sturridge before being replaced at half time by Coutinho, who also showed promising signs during the second 45 minutes, as he has done throughout pre-season.

Although their dominant first half display later went on to show that Liverpool deserved to take a lead into the interval, they required a slice of good fortune to open the scoring only five minutes in, as Sturridge's scuffed shot fell perfectly for Sterling, who completed the simple task of turning in from close range with aplomb.

Luis who?
Liverpool's attack always looked threatening, although they were defensively vulnerable at times, Olympiacos squandering a couple of good chances to level the score line shortly after the break, as Ghazaryan hit the bar. 

Substitutions inevitably broke up the momentum of the match during the second half, but it must be remembered that at the end of the day friendlies are all about fitness and getting as many players as much game time as possible.

One of the main positives to come out of the contest was the clean sheet that the Reds kept; hopefully that's a sign of work on the training ground bearing fruition, and Dejan Lovren, whose capture was confirmed soon before kick-off, should also bolster Liverpool's back line. 

Next up for Liverpool; Premier League rivals Manchester City on Wednesday night.

31/7/2014- Manchester City 2-2 Liverpool (Liverpool win 3-1 on penalties)

Liverpool came from behind twice to beat Premier League rivals Manchester City 3-1 on penalties in an enthralling glamour friendly at the New York Yankees' stadium in front of 50,000 fans, most of whom were Kopites. There were five changes from the team that beat Olympiacos last time out, as Kelly, Coates, Allen, Coutinho and Lambert all started.

Not helped by the poor quality pitch, the game struggled to get going during a first half that the Citizens dominated. However, the second half was full of end-to-end football befitting of a competitive fixture, not a pre-season friendly.

After Hart thwarted Robinson at one end, Man City took the lead at the other soon after, Navas beating Kelly and sending a cross into the box that just evaded skipper Steven Gerrard, allowing Jovetic to turn past Mignolet from close range.

Liverpool responded in the perfect manner, though, as Sterling and Sturridge teamed up to set up Henderson perfectly, and the former Sunderland midfielder superbly curled home to level the score line.

Let's hope for more of these from Hendo next season
Frustratingly, however, Jovetic took advantage of another lucky bounce of the ball to net from close range for the second time on 67 minutes, regaining the lead for Manuel Pellegrini's side. 

Encouragingly, in the closing stages Liverpool took the game by the scruff of the neck and, with five minutes left on the clock, Sterling struck in style to send the game to spot kicks, where City missed three of their four attempts as Mignolet saved from Yaya Toure and Navas, while Can, Henderson and Lucas kept their composure to find the net and win the match for the Merseysiders, who now top their International Champions Cup group.

2/8/14- AC Milan 0-2 Liverpool

With a place in the International Champions Cup final against bitter rivals Manchester United already confirmed before kick-off by virtue of Manchester City's penalty shoot-out defeat to Greek side Olympiacos, Liverpool proceeded to put the cherry on top of the pre-season cake at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, beating Italian giants AC Milan 2-0 in front of almost 70,000 spectators.

Welsh midfielder Joe Allen broke the deadlock just after a quarter of an hour, as the Reds finally beat Milan stopper Christian Abbiati at the third time of asking. Allen stole possession from former Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien and then saw his shot hit the post. The keeper did well to stop Sterling's effort from the rebound, but there was nothing he could do to stop Allen scoring when the ball subsequently fell nicely for him.

Just before the half hour mark, Sterling was felled in the box and the referee rightly awarded a penalty. However, Rickie Lambert, who converted all 34 of his attempts from the spot for Southampton, produced a tame effort that Abbiati comfortably kept out. Hopefully it's not a sign of things to come for the 32-year old.

The second half was more quiet until the closing stages, not helped by the eight changes that Reds' boss Brendan Rodgers made on the hour mark, which inevitably disrupted the flow of the game. Exciting youngster Suso produced a moment of magic in the 90th minute that was worth the wait, as the 20-year old Spaniard brilliantly curled the ball into the bottom right hand corner from the edge of the box after receiving a square pass from Coutinho.

Suso scored an exquisite second with minutes remaining
There was still time for Bryan Cristante to bring an excellent save out of Simon Mignolet, but Liverpool's dominance was pleasingly incontestable and they ran out comfortable winners against a top European team, which is extremely encouraging heading into next season's Champions League campaign.

Next stop; Miami to face Manchester United in the International Champions Cup final.

5/8/14- Manchester United 3-1 Liverpool

Liverpool fell to a disappointing 3-1 defeat against their bitter rivals Manchester United in the final of the International Champions Cup. However, the Reds' performance still offered many positives, despite them failing to clinch some early silverware.

Both managers selected strong starting line-ups, reflecting how seriously they were taking the game, as Johnson, Gerrard, Coutinho, Skrtel and Sakho returned for the Reds and Rooney, Mata and Hernandez began for the Red Devils.

The Merseysiders were the better team during a lively first half, and they got the lead their dominance deserved after 13 minutes, as skipper Steven Gerrard sent the ball into the bottom left hand corner from the spot after Sterling fell underneath the challenge of Phil Jones in the box.

Gerrard converts another penalty versus United
Always a tricky customer, Sterling had another good penalty shout on 35 minutes after Coutinho had earlier seen his shot well saved by David De Gea. Unfortunately, though, the officials failed to penalise United's new signing Ander Herrera, whose challenged Sterling had tumbled under.

The Reds continued where they'd left off at the start of the second half, Lambert shooting weakly at De Gea and Sterling firing wide after being set free by a wonderful pass from Coutinho.

However, two goals in two minutes knocked the wind out of Liverpool's sails. First, Hernandez sent an accurate right wing cross to Rooney, who converted well at the far post on 55 minutes. Moments later, Mata's strike took a decisive deflection off Sakho and beat Mignolet, completing reversing the flow of momentum and putting Louis Van Gaal's men in the ascendancy.

Bizarrely, the officials initially awarded United a third goal on 64 minutes when Rooney tapped home unchallenged after Young's cross had rebounded off the back of the net, although common sense eventually prevailed as the goal was chalked off.

Nonetheless, it was only a matter of time, as Liverpool's efforts to work their way back into the match and force penalties proved fruitless, Lingard's effort from the edge of the box in the closing stages sealing the win for United and ending an otherwise enjoyable and productive tour of the States on a negative note.

10/8/14- Liverpool 4-0 Borussia Dortmund

Liverpool ended their pre-season campaign in the perfect manner, thumping four past the hapless Borussia Dortmund in front of a full house at Anfield. First half goals from Sturridge and Lovren were added to by Coutinho and Henderson in the second half, as the rampant Reds sent out a message of intent ahead of their opening Premier League fixture against Southampton in a week's time.

Although Jurgen Klopp's side, who finished second in the Bundesliga last season and promised to pose the Merseysiders a stern test, were woeful throughout, that couldn't detract from a wonderful performance from Rodgers' men. Composed and solid at the back, their attacking edge wasn't blunted by the absence of Luis Suarez, as Sturridge, Coutinho and Sterling stepped up to the plate. They must continue to do so when the matches really matter.

Right from the word 'go', Liverpool were in the ascendancy, scoring twice in the opening quarter of an hour as they replicated the relentlessly attacking approach they adopted at the start of matches last season. Sturridge broke the deadlock on ten minutes, delicately toe-poking past Langerak after the brilliant Coutinho flicked the ball through to him. Four minutes later, £20 million signing Dejan Lovren was celebrating a debut goal, heading home Gerrard's left wing corner at the Anfield Road end.

The German giants came back into the contest during the second half of the first 45 minutes. However, they shot themselves in the foot soon after the interval, Matthias Ginter slicing a pass horrendously, allowing Sterling to superbly tee up Coutinho, who drilled home from close range.

Coutinho put in a quality performance. He will be key to the Reds' attack in 2014/2015
Henderson joined in the fun on the hour mark, tapping in from yards out from Sturridge's pass to round off the scoring for the afternoon.

All in all, it was a great afternoon at Anfield for Liverpool. This performance against a top European side only a week before the start of the new season gives us hope that not only will the Reds pick up from where they left off last season, they will also more than hold their own in the Champions League.

Roll on the return of competitive football next Sunday!

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