Liverpool got off to a winning start in the Europa League as their young boys beat BSC Young Boys 5-3 in an enthralling game at the Wankdorf Stadium (yes, that’s right, Young Boys Wankdorf, AMAZING!). After failing to adequately reinforce their attacking options in the summer transfer window, Brendan Rodgers has insisted that the young players will be given the chance to impress between now and January - and most of those who featured in Bern last night certainly took the chance, giving Rodgers food for thought as the season progresses.
The opposition may not have been formidable, but several of the Young Boys side had plenty of experience in both International and European competition, and their record at home is strong. This was an entirely different line-up from the one that drew 1-1 at Sunderland last weekend, so it was a big ask for a young side that had never played together, away in Europe, to go and win the game, but their commitment and, more importantly, their ability on the ball showed that they do not look out of place in the senior side.
Liverpool handed two youngsters - both of whom have been impressive at U18 and reserve level and featured regularly in the NextGen series - their first-team debut: Andre Wisdom, who capped off an assured display at right-back with a towering header from a corner; and Suso, who is every bit the archetypal Rodgers midfielder. They were both impressive, and having outperformed some of their senior teammates it wouldn’t be surprising if they started most of the group games. Oussama Assaidi, a £3m signing from Heerenveen, also made his debut, and looked dangerous on the ball until he tired in the second half, which is understandable given his lack of playing time in pre-season and that he was still recovering from Ramadan.
This was an entirely different line-up from the one that drew 1-1 at Sunderland last weekend, so it was a big ask for a young side that had never played together, away in Europe, to go and win the game, but their commitment and, more importantly, their ability on the ball showed that they do not look out of place in the senior side.
Dani Pacheco started up front for the Reds, but sadly he was one of the few players who failed to make any real impact on the game. He lacks any physical presence and it was a surprise to see him deployed through the middle as he was isolated for the most part. It is a shame how his career has stagnated; he was one of the players of the tournament as Spain won the 2010 U19 European Championships, but a brief loan spell at Norwich City aside, has failed to do anything of note since. His loan spell at Rayo Vallecano last season was a waste of time, and now 21, he urgently has to make an impact if he has any hope of becoming a regular at Anfield.
Having dropped right down the pecking order this season, Jordan Henderson has become the forgotten man at Anfield, but he put in arguably his best performance in a Red shirt. His attitude was fantastic – although it has never been a problem, to be fair - and he was effective defensively and purposeful when on the ball. It is abundantly clear that he is a central midfielder, not a winger, and out of all the expensive mistakes from the previous regime, he is the only one who still looks like he may have a future at the club. It is easy to forget that he is still just 22, and if he continues to perform as well as this he should force his way back in to Rodgers’ plans on a more regular basis.
This was an even, end-to-end, entertaining encounter for the neutral. Liverpool were the better side in the first half; Young Boys probably edged it after the break. Whilst there are certain areas that need improving, particularly the shape of the side without the ball, there were far more positives than negatives, especially when you consider that this was very much a second string side. A weakened Liverpool side scored five goals away from home – what’s not to be happy with?
Having dropped right down the pecking order this season, Jordan Henderson has become the forgotten man at Anfield, but he put in arguably his best performance in a Red shirt.
What was a concern – and it has been a reoccurring theme since the start of last season - was the ease with which the Reds conceded the three goals. The right half of the defence (Wisdom and Coates) looked solid, whilst the left side (Carragher and Enrique) was surprisingly the vulnerable side. Enrique’s mistake for the first goal was unforgivable, and it cannot be blamed on the system Rodgers is trying to put in place; it was purely a moment of idiocy from an experienced defender. Enrique was slow to close down the crosser for the second, whilst Carragher failed to deal with the ball on the halfway line in the move that led to Zarate’s sumptuous finish putting Young Boys in the lead.
Whilst a lack of goals – particularly from open play – has been a concern this season, the Reds are looking far more dangerous from set pieces, which is a huge improvement on recent years. Two of the five goals last night came from corners, and two of the three league goals they’ve scored were also the result of well worked set plays. Liverpool must be more clinical, but it is encouraging that they have improved remarkably one of the weaker sides of their attacking game.
Having twice surrendered the lead, the side showed great resolve to turn things around and seal the win. Jonjo Shelvey showed his poor performance on Saturday was nothing more than an anomaly, and was the best player on the pitch when he came on. His lack of goals is about the only criticism that can be levelled at him, so it was encouraging to see him score two fantastic goals; he looks a cert to start over Sahin and Henderson against Manchester United on Sunday.
It was job done for Brendan Rodgers. He rested practically his entire first eleven -with most of them not even making the trip to Switzerland, saw the players on the peripheries of the first-team make a convincing case for more regular football, and secured a valuable away win. Young Boys are the weakest side in the group, but it was still important to get off to a good start. Now all eyes on Anfield this Sunday for a massive game against Manchester United.
More great articles on Liverpool
Click here for more Football and Sport stories
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook