Liverpool returned to the pitch today for their first preseason friendly as an assortment of starters, youngsters, and space eaters travelled to Denmark to face Brøndby (Daniel Agger's former side) where they lost 2-1. But the scoreline was, as is always the case in these games, an irrelevant footnote. In fact, the entire match can be filed under irrelevant footnote. However, it was interesting to see how youngsters such as Jordan Ibe fared with an opportunity to impress Brendan Rodgers.
The players exited the tunnel to the tune of "Jump" which created a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere at the packed Brøndby Stadium. Agger was presented flowers and given an ovation, and the match began. Liverpool's rust showed from the onset, and Brøndby, in their final preseason encounter, took advantage of a myriad of loose touches by the Reds. Fabio Borini looked especially out of form, and he could have been in on goal a couple of times early on before his control let him down. Philippe Coutinho, fresh off his World Cup snub, was the best player on the pitch for the first 45 minutes. However, while his dribbling and passing were beautiful to watch, he struggled to hit the target with his shots. Young left back Brad Smith also looked promising and put himself in good shooting positions with some intelligent overlapping runs.
Tiago Ilori was removed as a precaution in the 20th minute after hurting his groin, and youngster Kevin Stewart came in for his first Liverpool appearance. The change pushed Martin Kelly inside to play center back, while Stewart took over at right back. Stewart was abysmal over his first ten minutes before he settled down to close out the half. Yet it was Suso who gifted Brøndby a 1-0 lead after he shanked a clearance right to Christian Nörgaard who placed his shot past a diving Brad Jones. That score stood until halftime, and at the midway whistle Agger threw his jersey into the crowd as a parting gift.
Brendan Rodgers swapped out the whole team except for goalkeeper Brad Jones in the second half. 18-year-old Jordan Ibe was positioned out on the left wing, and he showed right away why there's so much excitement surrounding him. After allowing a pass to roll through his legs to create space at the halfway line, Ibe sprinted onto the ball and ran past everyone all the way to the byline where his cross was turned into the net by Kris Peterson to equalize. He tormented Brøndby defenders throughout the half, and could have scored a couple goals himself if he had placed his shots better. It's clear that Ibe, who's play style draws comparisons to Raheem Sterling, has the ability to become a superstar, but he has to work on his shooting and decision making. It'll be interesting to see if Liverpool loan him out since he can perhaps make a Sterling 2012/13-like impact with the first team if he stays.
Brøndby hit the bar twice in the second half, but finally found a second goal when Hasani dribbled past Liverpool's entire defense to score an extra time winner. It was a fun match and the youngsters had a good opportunity to show their ability, which is really what these early friendlies are all about.