Liverpool: Reds Beat Bilbao In Final Pre-Season Outing
Goals from teenagers Ben Woodburn and Dominic Solanke help the Reds to a 3-1 win in Dublin...
Liverpool have ended their pre-season preparations on a high in front of a boisterous capacity crowd at the Aviva Stadium in Ireland.
Opponents Athletic Bilbao, who have already been in Europa League action this term, provided another decent test of Jürgen Klopp's side ahead of the new season, which gets underway at Watford next weekend.
The Reds, minus Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho because of illness and injury respectively, started brightly and Divock Origi should have scored twice during the opening exchanges but disappointingly missed the target on both occasions.
The men in white eventually took the lead in the 21st minute via a Roberto Firmino penalty. The versatile frontman, who scored twice from the spot in the midweek Audi Cup final defeat to Atletico Madrid, squeezing the ball past Kepa Arizzabalaga after getting the wrong side of Inigo Lekue to win the penalty himself.
It was a short-lived advantage however as Bilbao dangerman Inaki Williams got the better of Dejan Lovren before slotting past Simon Mignolet on the half hour mark.
It was no less than the Spaniards deserved after growing into the game and catching the eye with a series of free-flowing attacks that caused the Premier League outfit plenty of problems defensively.
The final stages of the first half saw both sides continue to threaten with Alberto Moreno going closest to adding to the scoring.
Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold (Flanagan 45'), Lovren (Gomez 45'), Matip (Klavan 45'), Moreno (Robertson 45'), Can (Wijnaldum 45'), Milner (Ejaria 45'), Grujic (Woodburn 45'), Salah (Kent 45'), Firmino (Solanke 45'), Origi (Mané 45')
Goals: Firmino 21', Williams 30', Woodburn 59', Solanke 80'
Klopp changed all ten outfield players at the interval and it contributed to Bilbao initially looking the more dangerous after the restart; Inigo Cordoba firing straight at Mignolet following a mistake by Joe Gomez.
Liverpool restored their lead shortly before the hour mark through a fine goal from teenager Ben Woodburn, who expertly shifted the ball onto his left foot before finding the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Either side of the goal Sadio Mané worked Arizzabalaga but the Merseysiders remained far from their best in a game that lacked intensity at times.
Moments after Oscar De Marcos almost put through his own net, and as supporters entertained themselves with a Mexican Wave, the impressive Dominic Solanke headed home number three following an excellent cross by Ragnar Klavan.
The goal was part of an improved final 15 minutes in which Liverpool dictated play and passed the ball with pace and purpose.
Evaluating the game and pre-season as a whole at a post-match press conference, Klopp remarked: "I said before the game that pre-season so far has been really good.
"We've played a lot of games and we didn't lose one, we had two draws and lost on a penalty shootout to Atletico, but that's a good sign.
"Performance-wise, most of the time good or even better. A few weaknesses we saw today. First half an hour, I'd say [we played] brilliant football and then we lost organisation and gave them two opportunities and changed the game a little bit.
"Then we had to run and I was not happy with these 15 minutes but on the other hand it's very important that you have it, because perfection in pre-season is the biggest mistake you can make because it always leads to the wrong decisions.
"We know we have to be really concentrated to be really stable, and when we are stable we are a real threat and we can play really good football.
"You could see in the second half that we had a very young side and struggled a little bit in the beginning, but then opened our chest and played. It was nice to see, we looked smart, so I'm happy."
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