Liverpool took a step up in preseason friendly competition on Friday night in the United States as they took on Borussia Dortmund at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Bundesliga team, who finished second behind Bayern Munich last term after leading the league for three-quarters of the season, defeated the Reds 3-2 with goals from Paco Alcacer, Thomas Delaney, and Jacob Larsen.
Borussia Dortmund took advantage of poor Liverpool defending in the third minute as Alcacer scored after American winger Gio Reyna’s toe-poke back to him. Reyna outbattled right-back Nathaniel Clyne to poke the ball back to Alcacer who had got away from Joel Matip.
The most obvious issue Liverpool had early in the fixture, which was not apparent against either Tranmere Rovers or Bradford City, was the poor communication between goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Matip, Joe Gomez, Clyne, and Yasser Larouci. The five looked to have never played together with silly mistakes being made repeatedly.
Left-back Larouci looked incredibly suspect and the need for a more experienced defender to back up Andrew Robertson is evident. Unfortunately, the prices going for full-backs are high. Tottenham Hotspur recently sold right-back Kieran Trippier for £20 million. The market for a back up still means Liverpool could pay double-digits for a decent left-back.
As the commentators for the match stated, Liverpool’s defending was very much unlike Liverpool. Of course, the step-up in competition had something to do with it. However, the marking was poor and several times, Borussia Dortmund attackers were left unmanned in the penalty area.
While the defence was shaky and looked unsure of what it was doing, the attack looked promising. Ryan Kent, deployed on the left, and Harry Wilson, used on the right of a front three, were both dangerous. Kent had several good runs but the end result lacked. Liverpool will most likely sell Kent and Wilson but keeping one, or both, would give Jurgen Klopp more options off the bench.
The duo combined for Liverpool’s opening goal of the game. Fabinho played a ball to Kent at the edge of the 18-yard box only for the winger to dummy it through his legs straight to Wilson. The former Derby County man turned swiftly and fired the ball into the back of Borussia Dortmund’s net to level the score.
Despite the two youngsters playing well, the real storyline was Liverpool’s awful defending. Balls were being played over the top of the back four allowing Jadon Sancho and Mario Gotze to run on to them. Larouci’s deficiencies in defence showed over and over again with poor tackling and marking.
He may be able to get forward but it is his work tracking back and defending that is a major issue.
The Reds did look good in possession going forward. But unlike their previous friendlies in which every attack looked like a possible goal, Borussia Dortmund showed just how different top-level teams are to breakdown.
If Borussia Dortmund’s first goal was a case of poor defending, then their second was due to no defending. Gomez was left jogging back as Reyna’s square ball found Delaney all alone in the six-yard box to make the score 2-1. The move was started with Larouci sitting too far of Reyna allowing the American to cross the ball without being pressured.
Larouci’s terrible night continued with Borussia Dortmund’s third goal as Marius Wolf got past the youngster and pulled a pass back to Larsen. Although his first touch took him away from goal, Larsen struck a low diagonal shot past Mignolet.
On all three Borussia Dortmund goals, Liverpool’s defence had no clue where the Germans were.
Liverpool second-half substitute Ben Woodburn earned a penalty in the 74th minute. It allowed Rhian Brewster to stroke home a penalty for his fourth goal of the preseason to make the final score 3-2.
The big takeaways from the game were the awful Liverpool defending, Larouci not being Premier League quality, and the promise of both Kent and Wilson.
The Reds will be in action again on Sunday in the US against Sevilla in Boston.