Aviva friendly ends in 4-0 win for Liverpool
Lack of stars on show does little to quell enthusiasm as Shamrock Rovers play their part
Shamrock Rovers 0, Liverpool 4
There are still those who resist the growing significance of statistical analysis in football but sometimes there is simply no disputing that the numbers tell a tale; take for example the fact that the squad numbers of the Shamrock Rovers back four here added up to 27 which was 150 short of the corresponding figure for Liverpool. Want to make a stab now as to which team included the more first-team regulars?
Really familiar Liverpool faces were, in fact, few and far between. It had been strongly suggested that Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Philippe Coutinho would all be involved but when it emerged yesterday that they had merely travelled nobody could quite remember the exact words that had been used when the message had been conveyed.
Anyway, with those three in the stand – out of politeness, half-time interviewee Robbie Fowler informed the crowd that they all been ruled out by “little niggles” – Joe Allen was the sole surviving starter from Sunday’s win over Newcastle.
It could have been worse; take him, Lucas and Iago Aspas out of yesterday’s team and you were left with a line-up that made a combined seven Premier League appearances for the Anfield outfit this season, all of them from the bench.
Fans of Sunderland, Sheffield United and Birmingham City, of course, might be pleased to hear that their just returned loanees Fabio Borini, Conor Coady and Jordon Ibe got their games and many of the more dedicated Liverpool fans, of course, may well have been interested to see the next generation. Still, it must have been a different story for the many kids who had come along and, of course, the parents who had brought them.
And yet almost nobody amongst the 42,517-strong crowd gave any discernable indication of caring too much. Borini did get by far the warmest send off when he was replaced late on but for the most part the Liverpool supporters just seemed intent on buying into the occasion.
They came, they sang You’ll Never Walk Alone with some gusto before kick-off and they nearly raised the roof when Skrtel and co were presented to them at the break. The full extent of the irrationality of it all finally became apparent, though, when a plane appeared overhead trailing a banner which read: “Giggs 13 Gerrard 0 MUFC 20 TIMES.”
Only, er, in Ireland.
In the midst of all this, the game, to be fair, was not the worst seen at the Aviva. Shamrock Rovers held up their end of things well enough throughout but they weren’t quite able for their opponents, where Borini and Ibe stood out a bit.
The former announced his presence in the opening seconds with a run down the left that might well have led to an opening goal but thankfully for the locals that took seven minutes longer to arrive. In the end, Iago Aspas, Borini, Martin Kelly and Jack Dunn got the Liverpool goals with the last three all coming after the break.
Brendan Rodgers’s men could well have had another couple but Barry Murphy and Craig Hyland did well in the Rovers goal and 18-year-old Ibe hasn’t yet, it seems, added finishing to his armoury. Ryan Brennan, meanwhile, went closest for the Dubliners with a header that came off the inside of the post, bounced back across the goal-line and away.
“It was a great finish to what has been a wonderful season for us,” said the Liverpool boss afterwards. “For the fans it was a chance to see some of our top players and our younger players too.”
Many of those who came would have started supporting the club in the eighties when there was a sizeable Irish presence in the team. Asked whether players from here can ever have that sort of impact over there again, Rodgers sounded hopeful rather than confident.
“I think they can,” said the northerner who himself left Ballymena United for Reading in 1990, “but it’s obviously a lot more difficult.
“The Premier League is the most competitive league in the world and over 63 per cent are foreign players. It’s about opportunity. It’s getting that chance and if they’re professional enough and devoted to the life . . . I think what you get with a lot of Irish boys is that they come over, they struggle, they miss home and then they come back early.
“It’s about that education before they come over. A lot of them start the apprenticeship at 16 but even then it’s too late. A lot of the boys across the water are beginning at the age of eight and by the time they get to 16 they’ve been trained technically, tactically, physically and mentally and then they’re ready to step into full time football. The talent hasn’t disappeared.”
LIVERPOOL: Jones; McLaughlin (Randall, 63 mins), Paez (Williams, 79 mins), Kelly, Smith; Lucas (Teixeira, half-time), Allen (Brannagan, half-time); Aspas (Pieterson, 79 mins), Coady, Ibe; Borini (Dunn, 79 mins).
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Murphy (Hyland, 64 mins); Madden, Cornwall, McGuinness (O’Connor, 75 mins), Byrne (Osam, 75 mins); Robinson (Finn, 75 mins); Waters (O’Connor, half-time, Brennan (Bayly, h-t), McPhail (h-t), McCabe (Kelly, 64 mins); Kilduff (Zayed, 64).
Referee: P Sutton (Clare).