Liverpool opened their account for pre-season in an entertaining six-goal thriller with German second-division side Karlsruher SC on Wednesday, coming out on the correct end of a 4-2 scoreline at Wildparkstadion.
Jurgen Klopp‘s starting lineup featured a healthy mix of youth and experience, and the Reds needed just three minutes to break the deadlock through Darwin Nunez before a Lars Stindl thunderbolt got Karlsruher back on level terms.
Five minutes into the second half, Liverpool were caught out at the back as Sebastian Jung propelled Karlsruher ahead, but the hosts’ lead lasted all of 19 minutes, as Cody Gakpo quickly restored parity for Liverpool.
Following the Dutchman’s effort, a share of the spoils appeared to be on the cards, but Diogo Jota netted twice in the space of two minutes during the dying embers to ensure a winning start to pre-season for the Merseyside giants.
Here, Sports Mole picks out three talking points from Liverpool’s triumph at Wildparkstadion.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 19, 2023
With captain Jordan Henderson being left out of the squad as he closes in on a controversial move to Saudi Arabia, one of Dominik Szoboszlai or Alexis Mac Allister earning their first minutes in a Reds jersey was inevitable, and the former was given the nod to line up from the first whistle.
Linking arms with Bobby Clark and Trent Alexander-Arnold in a midfield trident, Szoboszlai spent a large portion of the first half in an advanced position on the right flank, where he caught the eye with a near-faultless passing display.
While the Hungarian could not mark his maiden appearance with a goal or assist, he departed during the break with a 96% pass accuracy – seeing 44 come off from 46 attempts – while also successfully completing four long passes in an assured debut performance.
Following Szoboszlai’s inauguration, it was time for £35m Mac Allister to make his mark at Wildparkstadion, and the former Brighton & Hove Albion man took up a similar role, mostly occupying vacant space just outside the penalty area on the right-hand side of the field.
Rather unintentionally, Mac Allister played a part in Gakpo’s strike, as his blocked effort fell kindly at the feet of Joe Gomez to send in the telling cross, and the Argentine would soon have a direct contribution to his name.
Displaying admirable determination to latch onto a loose ball, Mac Allister drove forward and slipped through Jota with an inch-perfect pass to complete the rout, ending a memorable first display with a well-deserved assist.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 19, 2023
Following the departure of Roberto Firmino on a free transfer, Mohamed Salah is the only surviving member of Liverpool’s famed front three, but the Egypt international still finds himself among elite attacking company.
Mac Allister’s assist for Jota was actually the only Liverpool goal contribution that did not come from a forward player, with the rest belonging to the Portuguese, Salah, Nunez and Gakpo, the latter of whom was a particularly bright spark.
With Liverpool huffing and puffing at 2-1 down, the Dutchman produced a sublime turn from Jota’s knock-down before a competent finish from close range, before turning provider for the former Wolverhampton Wanderers man with a delicate first-time pass into the area.
From that deft touch, Jota skipped past a couple of challenges before poking the ball home through the goalkeeper’s legs, while his emphatic finish for Liverpool’s fourth was quintessential of a centre-forward.
Prior to the second-half flurry, Nunez had initially tried to be unselfish by cutting back for Salah when the ball was there to be hit, but the Uruguayan immediately received the ball back from his teammate before picking out the bottom corner.
Nunez perhaps had a few of last season’s fluffed chances on his mind when he opted to pass when it would have been better to shoot, but the ex-Benfica man could not have missed when the ball fell at his feet again, and Reds fans have every reason to feel optimistic about their side’s goalscoring prospects this term, assuming that injuries do not rear their ugly heads once again.
Ben Doak shines
Given the experience and exploits of Liverpool’s big-money attacking stars – not forgetting Luis Diaz, of course – the Reds’ up-and-coming academy starlets have some tough acts to follow, but Ben Doak’s cameo was that of a man banging loudly on the door.
A £600,000 fee is already looking like a steal for the 17-year-old, who made five appearances for the first team last season and quickly made a name for himself at youth level, posting four goals and four assists from eight UEFA Youth League appearances.
It came as no surprise to see Doak given more valuable first-team minutes in Germany, as he replaced Clark for the second 45 and caught the eye with his direct running, completing four of his six dribble attempts successfully.
The former Celtic protege also posted a respectable 76% pass accuracy, made two tackles and won his only aerial duel, and should he continue to make these senior cameos count, Liverpool will be facing a big decision on whether to loan him out or keep him around as first-team cover for next season.