Liverpool 3 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
August 5th, 2017
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Last pre-season friendly
Liverpool lineup –
Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Moreno, Can, Milner, Grujic, Salah, Firmino, Origi
Subs: Karius, Ward, Wijnaldum, Gomez, Klavan, Mane, Robertson, Solanke, Flanagan, Kent, Ejaria, Woodburn
The last few days have been dominated with rumours about the future of our little magician, Philippe Coutinho. This morning, it was confirmed that Coutinho had not travelled to Dublin with the squad for today’s friendly. The official reason being given for his omission was a ‘sore back’. Also missing were Clyne, Henderson, Lallana and Sturridge. Lallana, of course, has damaged his quad muscle and is expected to be out for at least two months.
Klopp and co arrived in Dublin fresh from their exploits at the Audi Cup in Germany earlier in the week.
From the starting line-up, it appeared that Milner was actually going to get a run in midfield for today. Mignolet got the nod in goals while Matip and Lovren paired up in the centre of defence.
Firmino looked to be in the mood today – his work-rate, passing and technique were on point. He was involved in most of Liverpool’s attacking play in the first half.
Indeed, it was Firmino who made the perfectly-weighted final ball to put Origi clean through on goal in the ninth minute. Origi had exchanged passes with Salah and Firmino but when he got in on goal he dragged his effort low and wide to the left. He really should have scored.
It was Origi again who had the next chance on goal. Grujic played a cracking ball out wide to Moreno. Moreno fed in an early pass to the centre which Salah collected and took back out to the left side of the box. Salah then hung up an inviting cross which Origi met at the back post but he put it wide. Again, it could be argued that Origi probably should have scored. He was looking lively and getting into the right positions, he just needed to start hitting the target.
Much like in Munich during the week, Alberto Moreno was looking impressive – pretty solid at the back and a lightning quick outlet on the left going forward.
Liverpool opened the scoring in the twentieth minute. Firmino received a ball on the left-hand side of the box. He took it brilliantly on his chest and was pulled down by the defender as he passed him. After taking two successful penalties on Wednesday against Atletico Madrid, it was Firmino again to put another Spanish side to the sword in Dublin. His finish was low and to the keeper’s right. 1-0 Liverpool.
Is this a sign that Firmino will be the primary penalty taker this season? Milner was on the pitch today but Firmino still took the penalty. We’ll have to wait and see.
Two minutes later and Firmino created a chance for Salah. The Egyptian winger tried to place a shot low and into the far corner but it was gathered safely by the keeper.
Athletic Bilbao reacted well to going behind and began to make inroads towards Mignolet’s goal shortly afterwards.
Right on the half hour mark, Inaki Williams capitalised on a lackadaisical challenge on the edge of the box by Lovren. The ball ricocheted kindly for the striker and he was in the box to face Mignolet. Williams paced it low to Mignolet’s right and the Belgian stopper had no chance on this occasion. 1-1.
In truth, it was Bilbao who threatened most for the next ten minutes. They constantly probed at Liverpool’s defence and looked to be the most likely to go in ahead at the break.
The next chance Liverpool created again involved Bobby Firmino. He played Moreno in on the young left-back skipped past one Bilbao challenge before seeing his low shot stopped at the second attempt by the Bilbao goalkeeper.
Half-time: Liverpool 1 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
Klopp changed all ten outfield players at half-time. The starting eleven for the second half was Mignolet, Flanagan, Gomez, Klavan, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Ejaria, Woodburn, Kent, Solanke, and Mane.
In the 52nd minute, Joe Gomez was caught on the ball by the Bilbao striker, Cordoba. Cordoba’s effort on goal was well saved by Mignolet although the Bilbao man will wonder why he didn’t put his effort to either side of the Liverpool keeper.
Down the other end four minutes later, it was Sadio Mane who had a clear cut opportunity. Ryan Kent’s cross had made it past the Bilbao defence to Mane who was unmarked at the far post. Mane’s shot was brilliantly saved by the young Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper.
There was nothing the keeper could do about Liverpool’s next attack, however. Solanke made a great run into the left-hand channel. After receiving the ball he pulled a low pass back to the edge of the box. Ben Woodburn was there. He took one touch with his right foot, disorienting the Bilbao defence and setting his own shot up in the process. And what a shot! With his left foot, Woodburn buried his effort from the edge of the penalty area into the far corner. 2-1 Liverpool.
Flanagan and Solanke were performing well since coming on. Ejaria was trying but a lot of his challenges were clumsy and leading to fouls. Woodburn and Kent were enjoying their time and getting involved at every opportunity.
The next twenty minutes were uneventful, the only incident of note being the highly successful ‘Mexican Wave’ performed by the Irish Reds.
In the 80th minute so consistent Liverpool pressure paid off when Klavan floated lovely cross in from deep. Up rose Solanke, unmarked. His header found the back of the net and this young striker sure does seem to have an eye for goal! 3-1 Liverpool.
The last ten minutes were quiet, with Liverpool happy to settle on their two-goal cushion. Bilbao never really looked like threatening that. In fact, it could’ve been four for the Reds when Solanke and Mane broke in injury-time but Solanke muddled up his back heel for Mane and Bilbao cleared their lines.
Well, that’s it for today, folks. The next time we watch our beloved Reds will be at Watford next Saturday and that game is going to mean a hell of a lot more. Bring it on!
Final Score: Liverpool 3 – 1 Athletic Bilbao