Lineup: Mignolet, Gomez, Matip, Klavan, Moreno, Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Mane, Coutinho ©, Solanke (4-3-3)
Subs: Grabara, Robertson, Lovren, Flanagan, Ejaria, Henderson, Firmino, Sturridge, Salah, Kent.
Liverpool kicked off their German tour with a friendly against Hertha Berlin to mark the 125th Anniversary of the club with a comfortable victory.
James Milner was absent due to injury, therefore, Alberto Moreno started in his place with £10 million signing Andy Robertson making his debut in the second half. Divock Origi was a late omission from the starting line up after complaining about tightness in his hamstring and was replaced by Solanke. Trent Alexander Arnold was rested with Klopp saying he didn’t want to overburden the teenager in his pre-match interview.
Emre Can and Sadio Mane were both appearing for the first time this season and it’s fair to say both of them didn’t waste any time in catching up with their teammates by putting in impressive displays. Liverpool’s much coveted little Brazilian was handed the captain’s armband with many fans believing it was yet another indication about his future at the club with LFC sticking to their ‘not for sale’ stance.
The start of the game was slightly drab with both teams taking the time to find their feet. Hertha were quicker to settle down, creating their first half-chance in the 8th minute courtesy Lallana losing the ball in midfield; the ball was played to Weiser who cut inside down the left before firing a tame shot wide. Another Hertha attack came down the left-hand side 3 minutes later when Liverpool failed to clear the ball and it fell to Darida whose first-time shot was straight at Mignolet.
Liverpool finally settled in as they showed the same intensity and pressure that made them so dangerous last season and they created their first chance when Can dribbled through the midfield before finding Moreno’s clever run in behind, who fizzed it across the face of the goal but. No one was there to finish it. The ball fell to Lallana on the right who played it back inside to Mane, who lost his footing when trying to shoot, showing the rustiness expected in his first pre season game.
The Reds broke the deadlock almost immediately afterwards when Lallana played in a pinpoint cross for Solanke to loop it over the keeper who really should’ve done better.
The game was a bit dull for the next few minutes until Mané had a good chance thanks to a ricochet off a Hertha defender but his dipping volley was too high. A couple of minutes later, the returning Emre Can made a trademark 50 yard run through the midfield but was let down by the lack of support.
Klavan had a very no-nonsense approach to dealing with Hertha’s attacks and showed quick thinking to cover for Moreno and win a throw. However, he was skillfully bypassed by Weiser who then squared the ball for an onrushing teammate whose shot was blocked by Matip.
Moments later, Weiser’s misplaced pass fell to the in-demand Coutinho; and the Brazilian played in Solanke who found Mane inside the box and he went to ground trying to turn Rekik but a penalty was not given despite the apparent contact. Moreno’s defensive frailties were brought to the fore again on the counter as Weiser – who was heavily involved in Hertha’s attacking play – turned him inside out far too easily but his cross was blocked.
Liverpool continued to show lapses in concentration as a poor attempt to play it out from the back resulted in the ball being given away and a free kick 30 yards from goal. Hertha Left Back Plattenhardt went for goal directly from the consequent free-kick and it went just over the bar.
Liverpool’s high pressing is rewarded in the 38th minute as Solanke steals the ball from Lustenberger just outside Hertha’s box and finds Mané who sets up Wijnaldum for a low finish into the right corner from just outside the box.
Hertha players made claims for a penalty when Matip and Ibisevic had a coming together inside the box soon after the Reds’ second goal but the referee was unmoved.
There were a couple of rash challenges towards the end of the half as the referee gave Skjelbred a talking to for hacking down Can in the middle of the park before brandishing the first yellow card of the game to Moreno for decking Leckie at the stroke of Half time.
Half Time: Hertha 0-2 Liverpool
Half Time Changes:
Salah, Firmino, Sturridge, Robertson, Henderson On
Mane, Wijnaldum, Solanke, Moreno, Wijnaldum Off
Robertson came on for his Liverpool debut in the second half and the Scot nearly got a goal 1 minute into his debut as his shot was saved by Jarstein. He faced his first defensive test merely 2 minutes later and he was left on his backside after being turned inside out, however, Mignolet came to the rescue, beating Esswein’s shot away.
Firmino had his first crack at goal on the 50-minute mark from a short free kick which was tipped over by Jarstein. Soon afterwards, Robertson showed his attacking capabilities as his cross – after a fine overlapping run – was just too strong for Salah who couldn’t reach it in time.
Hertha targeted Liverpool’s left-hand side throughout the game and shockingly enough the left side was vulnerable throughout the 90 minutes with most of the German side’s attacks coming down that side, however, the final ball lacked conviction and accuracy for the most part of the match.
Liverpool finally made it 3 just after the hour mark as Coutinho linked up with Salah yet again as the latter chipped the advancing goalkeeper much to the delight of the travelling Reds. Coutinho and Salah seem to be forming a formidable understanding that will definitely excite fans and players alike ahead of the new season.
Liverpool were pushing for more goals as Firmino tried to chip Jarstein but his finishing looked rusty as he continues to find his shooting range in pre season. He missed yet another chance midway through the second half, skying a shot well over from 25 yards when he should’ve Robertson in. Talk about desperation for a goal.
There onwards the game started to peter out with attacks dwindling to nothing and players looking more and more keen to see the remaining 20 minutes out. Mignolet showed good pace to get off his line quickly and clear the ball under pressure. Sturridge had a go at goal after Liverpool robbed possession off Hertha in midfield again, this time his right-footed shot was turned around for a corner.
Hertha substitute Stocker went close with a free kick – after a clumsy foul by Flanagan – which was tipped over comfortably by Mignolet. The home side got their first yellow card of the game when Pekarik made a poor challenge on Flanagan in the 77th minute. A minute later, Ejaria made his presence known with a lung-busting run through the midfield, holding off multiple challenges before playing in Salah, which resulted in the Egyptian losing the ball after being forced far too wide for his liking.
There was a moment of uncertainty from Hertha’s keeper in the closing stages as his poor touch almost gifted Liverpool possession in a dangerous position, but he recovered well as YNWA rang out around the Olympiastadion as Liverpool strolled to a comprehensive victory.