Reds Slip to Defeat
This contest was nothing more than an opportunity for Liverpool’s celebrated manager, Jürgen Klopp, to rotate and rest his key players, whilst handing out valuable minutes to the youthful academy prospects. This upcoming weekend match up against Manchester United, sees the Old Trafford club travel to Anfield, mere days after they were eliminated from the group stage of the Champions League. The Red Devils’ ongoing inconsistency and issues (in the injury department), mean that an opportunity to further humiliate and discredit their rivals would have played into Klopp’s Thursday night team selection. A midweek journey to Belgium for a game that meant nothing to the already qualified reds, saw Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander Arnold, and Mohamed Salah, all remained on Merseyside, whereas Luis Díaz, Konstantinos Tsimikas, and Dominik Szoboszlai, were kept as unused substitutes. There was never any real desire by the management to fight back and get the needless win, even though Liverpool were losing for much of the game. Alterations and personnel were probably already decided before the game, with the sports science department deciding who should play and how many minutes should be allocated.
The lineup is listed below, with subsequent in-game changes, as well as match stats.
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) December 14, 2023
The Starting Eleven
- Caoimhin Kelleher
- Conor Bradley
- Ibrahima Konaté
- Jarell Quansah
- Luke Chambers
- Wataru Endō
- Curtis Jones (c)
- Harvey Elliott
- Ben Doak
- Cody Gakpo
- Kaide Gordon
- Joe Gomez – Ibrahima Konaté (45 mins)
- Ryan Gravenberch – Wataru Endō (45 mins)
- Darwin Núñez – Ben Doak (63 mins)
- Calum Scanlon – Luke Chambers (63 mins)
- James McConnell – Kaide Gordon (75 mins)
- Union Saint-Gilloise 1 – 0 Liverpool: Mohamed Amoura (Gustaf Nilsson) 32 mins
- Union Saint-Gilloise 1 – 1 Liverpool: Jarell Quansah (Curtis Jones) 40 mins
- Union Saint-Gilloise 2 – 1 Liverpool: Alessio Castro-Montes – (Mohamed Amoura) 43 mins
Important Match Stats
- Possession: Union Saint-Gilloise 35 – 65 Liverpool
- Total Shots: Union Saint-Gilloise 11 – 3 Liverpool
- Corner Kicks: Union Saint-Gilloise 7 – 2 Liverpool
The First Half
The opening period of this game had Liverpool immediately take control in the possession stakes. The neat passing and interplay were often carried out in the middle of the pitch, with the reds keeper and defensive group receiving more service than the starved front line. Eventually (it did not take long), a vibrant and somewhat desperate home side realized that they could counter-attack an adversary that lacked defensive coordination, with no midfield shield of note. The ultra-attacking instincts of the Belgium table toppers demanded good defensive moments from both Jarell Quansah and Ibou, however, the two young full-backs were set upon and overwhelmed by more experienced operators. Desire became a more potent tool in the arsenal of a team, who were still fighting to advance to the knockout stages.
The endeavor to win will usually overcome a team that is largely disinterested. The opening goal came due to a weak challenge by Curtis Jones (skipper for the game) beyond the halfway line, which saw the eventual scorer break through, pass the diving keeper, before slotting fiercely into an empty net. The response from the visitors was emphatic and came soon afterward. As a corner bounced around the penalty box, Liverpool’s 20-year-old defender, Quansah, found himself dead center and 18-yards from goal. Without hesitation, the 6ft 3inch talent unleashed a thunderous strike beyond a staggered goalkeeper and the reds were back level. It took just three more minutes for the final goal of the game to be scored, as backline positioning allowed the scorer to advance and strike into the near post. Caoimhin Kelleher could have been better for both goals, though he was far from the worst entity in the initial 45 minutes.
The Second Half
On resumption of the second half, preordained changes to the line-up were undertaken, ones that allowed the team to improve marginally. Joe Gomez is enjoying a good season and is showing real leadership in his game, something that could not have been even whispered a year ago. The improved command of the back line allowed far less frenzy whenever Union advanced. Ryan Gravenberch came on to offer his usual easy on the eye, ball-carrying, though against a far weaker opponent once again.
The game was boring and slid into repetitive play and it was not until the introduction of Darwin, did a little bit of chaos and unpredictability emerge. Cody Gakpo appeared to be happy to count down the minutes of the game, as one of the more uneventful players on the pitch. Harvey and Curtis were average at best, whilst it was a delight to see Kaide Gordon start and look so bright. I would struggle to be over critical to anyone in this type of game, where you could sense players were preserving themselves for what is to come. At least, that’s what I hope caused such an array of mediocre performances.
The match ended with a whimper and Liverpool now awaits the shuffle of the next round (of which the group winners cannot participate), before finding out who they will face in last 16. Union Saint-Gilloise should be happy with their tournament and eventual win against European royalty, regardless of whether the reds even wanted to be there.
What Are My Final Thoughts…?
To come away with no injuries and a raft of rested players is delightful. I would have much preferred no minutes at all for either Ibrahima Konaté or Joe Gomez, yet the selections and general lethargic attitude at least saw some minutes and risk-free run-outs garnered across the board. From this coming Sunday to the following Saturday evening, Manchester United and Arsenal make their Premier League trips to Anfield, with West Ham visiting on the Wednesday in between to contest their EFL Cup tie. Three consecutive home games in this pre-Christmas schedule, could bring the best of all presents to this expectant fanbase, which is very conceivable with Virgil and Ali there to safeguard the team.
Good effort from the kids tonight, will stand them in very good stead for the future. 👏
The tough bit will be that same XI Vs West Ham next Wednesday but needs must.
Arsenal is a monumental 6 pointer and they have a free midweek but it's 3rd game in 6 days for us #lfc
— Conor Bradley Fan Account (@DanKennett) December 14, 2023
Something is building for the Reds and decisions need to be made to ensure priorities are met, which the manager probably got just about right tonight. United come next, in what could be a marvelous game to view.
[Pre-match Prediction: Union Saint-Gilloise 4 – 2 Liverpool]