Brondby vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned from Reds' 1st Preseason Friendly
Liverpool fell to a late 1-2 defeat to Brondby in the Reds’ first preseason friendly of the new Premier League season on Wednesday in Denmark, which saw Daniel Agger return to his former club for the first time since arriving at Anfield in 2006.
Christian Norgaard had opened the scoring for Brondby before Jordon Ibe’s driving run set up an equalizing goal for Liverpool youngster Kristoffer Peterson. Ferhan Hasani scored a fine individual solo effort late in the game to secure a win for the Danish side.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers traveled with a young squad, with experience in the form of Agger, as well as Lucas and Philippe Coutinho, both of whom were left out by Brazil in their World Cup squad this summer.
Here are six things we learned from Liverpool’s first friendly of the season.
Why Was Philippe Coutinho Not at the World Cup?
Despite only playing for 45 minutes, it was clear that Philippe Coutinho was Liverpool’s standout performer in the match.
His purposeful runs, silky first touch, mesmerizing close control and composed passes—all hallmarks of his game—caused problems for the Brondby midfield and defence in the first half and wowed the home and visiting fans alike.
Fair to say, then, that Coutinho has picked up where he left off from last season, which begs the question: Why wasn’t he in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s World Cup squad?
A Brazil team previously so renowned for their joga bonito approach to football had been replaced by a workmanlike approach to the game, which backfired spectacularly in the tournament.
Brazil’s loss, Liverpool’s gain.
This Could Be Jordon Ibe’s Breakthrough Season
After Coutinho impressed in the first half, it was Jordon Ibe’s turn after the break, as the 18-year-old threatened his opponents time and again with his searing pace and fine vision.
It was Ibe’s run and ability to pick out his teammate in the box that led to Liverpool’s equalizer just three minutes after the break. But it wasn’t just an isolated case; Ibe was Brondby’s chief tormentor in the second half.
Having spent the second half of last season on loan at Birmingham City, where he directly contributed to their last-gasp survival in the Championship, Ibe has stated his intention to follow in Raheem Sterling’s footsteps and establish a place in the Liverpool first team.
Ibe has the natural physical and technical ability to do just that. His next mission? Work on his finishing and make good use of the minutes Rodgers will gladly grant him over this preseason period.
A Good Run-out for Young Defensive Prospects
After a testing Premier League campaign that saw Liverpool concede 50 goals over the course of the 2013/14 season as they ultimately lost the title to Manchester City, the attention has firmly been directed toward their leaky defence.
The at-times hesitant defending of center back duo Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho attracted criticism last season, while Daniel Agger’s injury troubles meant that he wasn’t able to complete a full season in the first team.
But Wednesday provided a good chance for some young defensive prospects at the club to earn a run-out and to impress their manager.
The likes of Andre Wisdom, Martin Kelly and Tiago Ilori will be looking to really get their Anfield careers going with some strong performances this preseason.
Liverpool’s Attacking Midfield Line Needs Goals
Even acknowledging the importance of Luis Suarez on Liverpool’s total goal tally last season, it seems ludicrous to suggest that their forward line needs to further hone their finishing skills and get on the scoresheet even more.
Yet this is exactly what needs to be done on the training ground before the season starts.
Coutinho, so often a magical player on the ball, has now added steel and pressing to his game and has arguably remade himself into a genuine No. 8 option. But since arriving at Anfield, his finishing has constantly let him down.
The same applies for the clearly talented by as-yet profligate Ibe, Joao Carlos Teixeira and Suso, the latter of whom spent last season on loan at Almeria.
To be sure, Rodgers still has the likes of Daniel Sturridge and new signings Lazar Markovic and Rickie Lambert to take up the goalscoring burden, but he’ll need some help from his other options—and they need to be giving their boss a selection headache.
Brondby’s Fitness and Preparations Won the Day
Wednesday being Brondby’s last preseason fixture before the Danish league starts next week, the home side evidently looked physically fitter and more in sync with each other.
It would be easy to blame Liverpool’s defeat on Brondby’s progress in their preseason schedule and the physical groundwork that they’d built up before the game—yet that was likely the deciding factor on Wednesday.
Questions need to be asked of the visitors’ defending—what else is new?—considering the ease with which Ferhan Hasani burst through the Liverpool half and scored his solo effort. But with a young and inexperienced squad, Rodgers will have come away more pleased than concerned with his team’s efforts.
Onwards and Upwards for the Reds
So Rodgers will demand more of the same work rate, inventiveness and attacking thrust from his team as they prepare to take on Preston this weekend before jetting off for a summer tour in the United States.
For the time being, these preseason friendlies will be a good workout for the Liverpool players and a chance for them to impress, but even they themselves will know that the much harder work starts in the US and when their World Cup colleagues return to training.
To have a chance at featuring alongside the established names in the squad, the Reds youngsters will need to do well against Preston and show their boss that they’re not out of place in a first-team context.
An interesting preseason campaign awaits.