Late goals from Jonny Smith and Amadou Soukouna took Tranmere to within a goal of their Merseyside neighbours in last night’s friendly, eventually losing 3-2.
Rovers had everyone except Liam Ridehalgh and Adam Buxton available, including winger Jonny Smith who joined on loan from Bristol City late yesterday. Trialist Soukouna was included in the squad again, while former crowd favourite Zoumana Bakayogo was involved as a trialist.
Other trialists were Kia Tonge, a young winger from Hinckley and Harvey Gilmour, a young midfielder available for loan from Sheffield United.
As has been the case for the last two years, Liverpool fielded a strong team for this one. They started with new signings Naby Keita and Fabinho in central midfield together; those two alone cost Liverpool nearly £100milion this summer.
Add in the likes of Lallana, Klavan and Solanke in the first half, Sturridge, Origi and Clyne after the break, and you get an idea of the strength in the visitor’s line-up.
The first half was the same as the last two year’s games. Liverpool bossed it, kept the ball, and Rovers were made to defend. It was 0-3 to the Reds by the break.
In the second half, Rovers made changes. Ellis and McNulty had looked shaky at the back and were replaced by Bakayogo and Sutton, Monthe joining Sutton at centre back with Zoum at left-back.
Tollitt, Soukouna, Smith, Gilmour and Tonge were introduced as the game went on, and that’s when Rovers began to see some success.
The pace of the new players gave Liverpool something to think about, and Rovers were now the ones playing the high pressing game. Ironically, Liverpool were superb at this last season, but they couldn’t handle Tranmere doing it.
Soukouna won back possession on the edge of the box before being fouled. Norburn’s piledriver was flapped by Karius in to the path of Smith who scored within hours of joining the club.
Next, Chiravella and Milner combined to mess things up as Soukouna and Gilmour closed them down. Liverpool gave up possession again, and the French forward Soukouna coolly slotted past Karius to make it two goals in two appearances. He is certainly knocking on the door for a contract on this form.
All-in-all, the last 20 minutes made the game more interesting than it looked like being. The pace of Bakayogo, Soukouna, Smith and Tonge changed Rovers’ approached and gave us an outlet to get at Liverpool.
There should be more to come from Paul Mullin who was poor in the first half but had little to work with. Larnell Cole was probably the best of the first half players, showing some good touches and committing Robertson on a few occasions. Monthe was also strong, especially at centre back during the second half.
New winger Smith looked very promising – very quick, strong and direct, even though he was played as a striker with Soukouna. And as for the Frenchman, he deserves another look. Bakayogo also looked decent enough to get another outing.