Anfield hosted League 1 side Notts County to kick off Liverpool's cup competitions this season. Without European play, the League Cup holds some importance as an opportunity to rotate in youngsters and out of favor reserves.
Seeing as last year Liverpool were quickly bounced out of both domestic cups, Brendan Rodgers fielded a relatively competitive side that immediately burst out to a 2-0 first half lead. Complacency at the back and injuries to Aly Cissokho, Joe Allen, and Kolo Toure took their toll however, and a short-handed Reds' side ended up scoring two goals on the counter in extra time to survive.
Hats off to Notts County for putting up a real fight, and a gigantic middle finger to the cup itself as Liverpool lost three important squad players for what could be extended stretches of time. It was also fantastic to see durable players like Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Daniel Sturridge stretch their legs for a casual 120 minute stroll with United coming up on the weekend.
Simon Mignolet - 5
Helpless to make a save on Notts County's agrarian opener, but I wonder if he could have been more proactive coming off his line. For County's equalizer, he came out to close down the angle only to see a really nice pullback sent home with one touch. I felt he hit the snooze button like the rest of the squad after the early lead and it was certainly the Belgian's weakest showing in an otherwise impressive start to his Liverpool career.
Glen Johnson - 4
Switched over to left back after Cissokho's injury. Didn't contest the initial header in the build up to County's opener and was caught out of position for the equalizer. Liverpool really need to find another right back both to challenge Johnson and allow him not to play a marathon midweek encounter against lower league opposition.
Andre Wisdom - 4
Technically, his mark scored both goals after he switched over to right back from the center. Getting beaten to the header on the first was on him, though receives less blame for the equalizer as he attempted to close down more central goal threats. I thought he had a fantastic preseason, and this was a certain step backward. In all likelihood, we're getting a full 90 from him alongside Daniel Agger against United and hopefully staying in one position all match will treat him better.
Kolo Toure - 5
Eventually left with what could be a serious groin injury, though he was on the field for both County goals. Wasn't a horrible performance, but can't receive anything more than a five after the defensive capitulation we saw. Hopefully he comes back soon because Liverpool has quickly found itself in crisis mode at the back, though my fingers are crossed this pushes management to bring in another central defender.
Aly Cissokho - NA
Given the start we hoped to see, Cissokho suffered an ankle injury and was taken off just 10 minutes in. No word yet on its severity.
Daniel Agger - 5
Usually substitutes come later down the list, but seeing as the Dane played *gulp* 110 minutes he'll hang up here with the starters. Not directly to blame for either goal, but similarly to Toure, can't get anything higher than a five due to the defense's collective nap. Playing alongside Wisdom against Robin Van Persie at the weekend will be an absolutely massive challenge and, should he pull it off, a huge testament to why Rodgers made him the vice captain.
Steven Gerrard - 6, Brendan Rodgers - 0
A nondescript performance from Captain Fantastic, the usual expansive passing and dictating of play. When I cursed Rodgers for starting him I had no idea the depths my sanity would plunge 100 minutes later as I watched Gerrard try to run a midfield while down to 10 men. Thankfully he emerged unscathed, but what energy level we see from the veteran midfielder on Sunday is up in the air.
Joe Allen - 6
Allen got his first start of the year and had an okay game. The real focus was his injury 65 minutes into the match. Certainly a cause for concern after last year's health problems. His injury looked more innocuous than those of both Cissokho and Toure, but then again I neither am a doctor nor play one on TV.
Luis Alberto - 5
I was tremendously excited to watch the young Spaniard in his first competitive minutes for LFC and came away slightly disappointed. There wasn't too much of the incisive passing and quick movement between the lines that seemed to characterize his play for Barca B last term. Early days yet for the summer signing, and the League Cup is the perfect competition for a youngster trying to get his feet wet in his new squad.
Raheem Sterling - 7
Scored a cracking goal in the opening minutes and for that he gets a 7. His attacking play wasn't as razor sharp as early last year, but he deserves some real credit for shifting to right back in the game's latter stages after Toure's exit.
Jordon Ibe - 5
Not a great match from one of the club's most exciting prospects. Like Wisdom, his performance wasn't up to the very high standards he showed during preseason and maybe was guilty of trying to impress just a little too much. With Stewart Downing in London and Ousamma Assaidi heading to Stoke, Liverpool could use another winger to take the burden off of this young pair.
Daniel Sturridge - 9
I'm not a player rating veteran, but I reserve 10's for hat tricks. A tremendous performance from Sturridge and, for my money, he's currently the in form player in all of England. Two great goals. The first had all the technique (and short back lift) we've seen to start the year, the go-ahead goal in extra time wasn't quite as pretty but no Red gives a damn. Essentially bailed out the entire squad.
Jordan Henderson - 7
Came on for the injured Allen 65 minutes in and almost played another 60 himself. His energy alongside Gerrard was important as the game wore on and Liverpool were short of numbers. His goal was superb, bursting forward from midfield to nutmeg a defender and finish with a tightly curled shot beyond the keeper before he blinked. Henderson is a central midfielder, pure and simple.
Came on late in the match for Alberto as Rodgers looked to grab a winner in regular time. That didn't occur, but Coutinho's pass into the channel for Sturridge led to Liverpool's third. Sturridge was quick to acknowledge Coutinho's ball and the partnership has a fine understanding. The Brazilian's 360 degree vision combined with Sturridge's pace and movement is a heady brew.
Excuse my cynicism, but after the Lucas knee combustion of 2011 and yesterday's injury amalgam that threatens Liverpool's most promising start to a season since the exit of a goateed Spaniard, I've soured on the Milk Cup. L2R is back with ratings for United and hopefully we'll be all smiles Sunday afternoon.