Liverpool’s pre-season continued in fine fettle as the Reds put Napoli to the sword in Dublin for their penultimate match. The 5-0 rout featured five different scorers, as Milner, Wijnaldum, Salah, Sturridge and Moreno piled the pain on the Italian side.
Liverpool started as they meant to go on, 2-0 up inside ten minutes with Milner the key man. First, he rounded off a decent move between Keita and Mané after Clyne’s pressing won the ball high – Milner’s lashed left-footed finish putting the Reds ahead inside three minutes. And then it was his exceptional cross that landed right on the head of Wijnaldum, who nodded into an empty net to make it two.
Napoli threatened to come back into the game in the first half, with Alisson exposed on a handful of occasions as he had to rush out to stop Callejon, with the Napoli striker on multiple occasions rounding the big Brazilian keeper, only to be stopped by the offside flag – once falsely. But for all of Napoli’s decent play before the break, they only tested Alisson on one occasion, a shot from range that Liverpool’s new keeper was more than equal to.
Moreover, the Reds themselves should have been further ahead before the break. Roberto Firmino had a goal wrongfully chalked off after brilliant work from Salah, but the Brazilian had strayed into an offside position. The fact that the ball ultimately came off the Napoli defender was missed by the ref. And Mané missed a golden opportunity as good pressing by Milner freed Firmino, who in turn fed Salah – the Egyptian put it on a plate, and Mané’s touch allowed the defender to get back.
But it was the Egyptian king who put the game to bed shortly after half-time, after substitute Xherdan Shaqiri – on for Bobby at halftime – crossed the ball in, and it ricocheted into Salah’s path. He did the rest, an exquisite finish from a tight angle inside the box.
That prompted a pre-planned raft of substitutes from Klopp on the hour mark, and with the game dead, it became the Daniel Sturridge show. Freed by both Solanke and Jones, Sturridge missed two decent chances, before eventually scoring Liverpool’s fourth after Divock Origi was freed by the excellent Shaqiri.
Sturridge continued to pull the strings with a beautiful pass for Alberto Moreno to smash in the Reds’ fifth, before Dom Solanke missed a golden opportunity to make it six after being freed by the seemingly reborn Sturridge.
This wasn’t necessarily a game for Liverpool fans to read too much into overall – Napoli were clearly not fit for purpose and the second half was essentially a dud, albeit one where the Reds were excellent. But what Liverpool fans can take away from this game was unilaterally positive. The front three look sharp, Naby Keita played well, James Milner was the best player on the pitch, and substitutes Sturridge and Shaqiri made stellar impacts. Alisson had a debut with lots to talk about, but there are very little conclusions to be drawn from his performance in truth.
This was, then, a very fine display of what Liverpool are capable of, but they’ll have to at the least match this intensity next weekend, if they want to get the points against West Ham.