Liverpool began their Europa League campaign with a solid point away to Bordeaux, but the display mirrored their frustratingly mixed start to the Premier League season.
Brendan Rodgers’s side went ahead in the second half through Adam Lallana, but Bordeaux, managed by former France international Willy Sagnol, grabbed an equaliser through Jussie and slightly edging the possession throughout the match.
Goal takes a look at five talking points from the Europa League clash…
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is renowned for his tactical tweaks and surprises. The Europa League, away from some of the pressures of the Premier League, has allowed the former Swansea City manager to juggle with different selections and Thursday night’s match proved no different.
After the 3-1 defeat to Manchester United at the weekend, Liverpool reverted to a formation designed around three central defenders – in this case Kolo Toure, Joe Gomez and Mamadou Sakho – allowing Jordon Ibe and Alberto Moreno to marshal the flanks.
The second ace up Rodgers’s selection sleeve was the raft of youngsters that made it onto the field at the Stade Bordeaux-Atlantique. Five teenagers featured for the Reds over the 90 minutes, as Gomez, Ibe and Jordan Rossiter all started, with Pedro Chirivella and Cameron Brannagan being introduced from the bench.
Despite failing to secure all three points, the influx of youth offered promise for Liverpool fans, giving the young players vital experience that should serve them well for challenges ahead.
Before Jussie’s equaliser, Adam Lallana’s lovely finish looked set to achieve the status it deserved, that of a match-winning goal.
Cutting in from the left, as he had been effectively throughout the match, buzzing around Divock Origi and Philippe Coutinho, Lallana nutmegged Pablo before dropping the shoulder and delicately curling the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
The former Southampton man missed out on Saturday due to injury, and has suffered from peaks and troughs in his Liverpool career. Lallana’s technical ability is beyond doubt, but sometimes the England international fails to sparkle, pushed out to the periphery of a game, often showing lovely touches without a definite end product.
Thursday night’s match, though, showed the best of Lallana, always looking to receive the ball and coming up with a piece of individually crafterd genius that got Liverpool in front.
The next step for the England midfielder must be to make himself a permanent fixture of this Rodgers side. Performances like the one in Bordeaux will only help him on that route.
Joe Gomez, the 18-year-old signed from Charlton Athletic, has been one of the Premier League’s revelations this season, offering a calm assuredness, usually from left-back, most readily demonstrated in the 0-0 draw away at Arsenal.
Against Bordeaux, the defender was deployed in a central role, occupying the middle of Liverpool’s three-man defensive line and largely looking comfortable for most of the match.
But the clash in France also offered a minor set-back as the 18-year-old was outmuscled by Enzo Crivelli in the lead up to Jussie’s equaliser – the promising defender clearly still has plenty of room to improve despite a solid start to life at Anfield.
Against United on Saturday, though, Gomez, playing reasonably well at Old Trafford, hauled down Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera for a penalty that the Spaniard later converted. It was a huge error that was ultimately punished.
That said, and although Gomez is some way from the finished article, the majority of his displays this season have been extremely promising, making Liverpool’s investment in the 18-year-old look very sound indeed.
Much has been made of the supposed view that Christian Benteke does not fit into the style of play usually practiced by Liverpool. It is often suggested that a more agile forward, capable of running the channels, would complement the Reds playmakers more than the Belgian.
On Thursday Divock Origi, a player in the speedy striker mould, was given his chance to lead the Liverpool line, but the former Lille forward failed to cement his case for more regular inclusion.
Origi ran dilligently but showed little end product or genuine quality, failing to muster an attempt on goal and losing the ball on 10 occassions.
Danny Ings replaced the Belgian striker in the second half and, on Thursday’s display, the former Burnley striker will be securely ahead of Origi in the Liverpool pecking order.
Rodgers’s switch to three at the back made room for Sakho on the left of the defensive unit and the former PSG defender was robust and solid in a strong display.
Dejan Lovren has regularly taken up Sakho’s favoured position on the left side of central defence thus far in 2015-16 but the Croatia international has proved himself prone to errors and slip-ups, often proving costly, as was the case in the 3-0 defeeat to West Ham United back in August.
Sakho, with a resolute performance against Bordeaux, may be able to supplant Lovren in the first-team squad. Though often clumsly in possession, the 25-year-old is effective, and avoided making any damaging errors, which may propel him ahead of the Croatia defender for Sunday’s meeting with Norwich City.