Liverpool left it late but Jurgen Klopp’s men picked up their first victory of pre-season after a last-gasp own goal earned a win over German club Mainz in Austria.
Klopp named two completely different line-ups for the two halves against his former side, with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Ibrahima Konate the key men in the first-half eleven, while Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino and Curtis Jones were the headline acts in the less experienced team after half-time.
Despite the star names in Liverpool’s first-half side, the opening 45 minutes ended goalless with very few chances of note.
Liverpool picked up their first win of pre-season as a late own goal earned a win over Mainz
Jurgen Klopp named two different starting XIs but struggled in the Friday night sun in Austria
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Liverpool first -half (4-3-3): Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Konate, Tsimikas; Elliott, Milner, Keita; Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane
Liverpool second-half (4-3-3): Adrian; N Williams, Phillips, Koumieto, Beck; Clarkson, Gordon, Morton; Minamino, Origi, Jones
The second-half was even more flat as Liverpool’s back-up side initially failed to impress, but young Reds left-back Owen Beck’s cross forced an own goal from Mainz defender Luca Killian with five minutes to go.
In the first-half, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain spurned the best clear-cut chance of the first-half when he forced Mainz goalkeeper Robin Zentner into a good save after good work from Naby Keita.
At the other end, Mainz also created little but Caoimhin Kelleher and Adrian were much busier than the pair of opposition goalkeepers Zentner and Dahmen.
Despite the win in their first 90-minute match after the summer break, Liverpool boss Klopp start to worry as there was a distinct a lack of chances created against the German side.
With pre-season starting to hot up for the Merseysiders ahead of the new Premier League season, Sportsmail looks at FIVE things we learned from Liverpool’s friendly with Mainz on Friday night…
FIRMINO’S LINK-UP PLAY MISSED AS ATTACKING STARS FAIL TO SHINE
Rustiness is expected in pre-season, especially in the final third, but the fact Liverpool failed to create in the first-half with Salah and Mane on the pitch may be a minor concern for Klopp in this pre-season campaign.
Against Mainz, the two high-profile attackers started up front alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who once again was seen in a ‘false nine’ role after impressing in the 30-minute friendly against Stuttgart.
Mohamed Salah started the match in Austria but was hardly involved in his first-half cameo
Oxlade-Chamberlain was rather anonymous in that opening period but a more worrying sight was the inability of Liverpool’s first-half front three to combine together in the Austria friendly.
The final pass was lacking in the opening 45 minutes with the Reds’ best chances coming either from brilliance in the midfield or picking up on scraps left by the Mainz defence.
It is still early in pre-season with more matches still to come, but Brazilian Roberto Firmino does appear to be a miss as the Reds wait for him to return from his extended break after the Copa America.
Sadio Mane partnered Salah up front and was slightly brighter but Liverpool created little
Two-thirds of Firmino’s Premier League goals last season came in the first-half of matches, which hints that the 29-year-old is very important to how Liverpool start matches.
Klopp’s men need to start showing more in front of goal this pre-season, or the chance creation woes that plagued them last winter, particularly in home games, could threaten to return.
KEITA SEEMS IN THE MOOD
Liverpool’s brighter spark in the first-half was midfielder Naby Keita, who showed a great deal of trickery and flair from within the midfield three.
All of the Reds’ good work in the opening half game from the Guinea midfielder, who drew in challenges before moving the ball into the front three well to create chances.
Keita did exactly that to release Oxlade-Chamberlain with the best chance of the first half, but the Liverpool ‘false nine’ could only force Robin Zentner into a good save after opening up his body.
Naby Keita was bright for Liverpool’s first-half XI and was at the centre of some good play
Other than that, the 26-year-old used his feet well and showed a couple of moments of trickery, hinting that he may be in the mood for the current campaign after the summer break.
Twelve months ago, Keita did enough in pre-season to convince Klopp to start the Guinea star in his midfield for the first few Premier League matches of last term, but coronavirus and leg injuries quickly halted that momentum.
Should he continue producing performances like Friday night, it will be difficult for the German manager to leave him on the bench at the start of this campaign.
The Guinean (right) showed quick feet to drag out defenders and create space for attackers
ORIGI’S AGGRESSION SHOWS HE CAN HAVE ANFIELD ROLE
There was plenty to be pleased about with Liverpool’s second-half team. Kaide Gordon looked sharp on the ball in another first-team outing, while Billy Koumieto looked solid at the back when Mainz fashioned counter-attacking chances.
But Divock Origi was the brightest player in the ‘back-up eleven’, with his pressing high up the pitch one of the most impressive parts of his game on Friday night.
Second-half substitute Divock Origi was aggressive after half-time and pressed Mainz well
The Belgian forward was impressive at winning the ball in Mainz’s first third, with one of those moments of defensive aggression leading to Gordon’s second-half strike that nearly found a way in at the near post.
Origi was limited to just nine Premier League appearances last season with only two of them being starts.
But his pressing, along with his flexibility of being able to perform on the left and through the middle, shows he can still have a role at Anfield this season.
MILNER AN OPTION FOR KLOPP IN QUARTERBACK ROLE
Klopp would have enjoyed the first-half performance of veteran midfielder James Milner, who appeared at the defensive base of the midfield three on Friday night.
That ‘quarterback’ role is likely to be contested by Fabinho and Jordan Henderson when the Premier League season kicks off but Milner used his maturity to good effect, leaving Klopp with an alternative option for the forthcoming campaign.
Milner set the Reds’ tempo from deep and often played incisive passes to get the ball to the front three. Defensively, the 35-year-old has the tactical awareness to cover Trent Alexander-Arnold’s space if he went far too high up the pitch. A vital first-half block from inside the penalty area denied Mainz an opener from the counter-attack.
James Milner was used in a ‘quarterback’ defensive midfielder role and performed well
A dilemma for Klopp at the start of the season surrounds whether to risk Henderson and Fabinho, who will come back from pre-season late following their international exploits at this summer’s Euro 2020 and Copa America competitions.
Milner in that defensive midfielder role may not be an option against top-class opposition, but the veteran may be considered for the opening two league matches against Norwich and Burnley in August.
TSIMIKAS STRUGGLES IN RARE CHANCE TO SHINE
Kostas Tsimikas will need an epic season to usurp Andy Robertson in Liverpool’s left-back hierarchy, but a poor display on Friday night has damaged his chances of getting more first-team minutes this season.
The 25-year-old played just six minutes of Premier League football last season and while that is partly down to the fact Robertson was fit and available for every single Liverpool game, there’s a feeling that Tsimikas’ Reds career has yet to take off.
Against Mainz in his first proper start of the season, Tsimikas gave too much time and space for opposition winger Daniel Brosinski to hurt the Liverpool backline.
Kostas Tsimikas (right) was often caught out on the counter-attack and struggled in the first 45
The 33-year-old Mainz veteran managed to get round the Greek on several occasions and play passes in behind Liverpool’s defence. Only recovering challenges from Ibrahima Konate and Milner managed to save a nervous Tsimikas’ skin.
Klopp’s back line tends to be high anyway so being caught out is not the worst crime in the world from Tsimikas, but better opposition in competitive games would have punished Liverpool more harshly on that right-hand side.
With Robertson now back in Liverpool’s pre-season training camp and needing first-team minutes ahead of the new season, Tsimikas’ chances to impress Klopp on the pitch may have depleted once again.