Indonesia XI 0-2 Liverpool
Liverpool enjoy great support across Asia and it was never more apparent than during this match – the first of their tour. A packed stadium was full of Liverpool shirts and flags as well as songs for their favourites (Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Luis Suarez were particularly popular amongst Indonesian Reds) and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, which was sang almost as passionately as the Kop at Anfield.
The fans were eager to see their heroes and Brendan Rodgers did not disappoint as he picked a strong side with starts for new signings Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, Kolo Toure and Simon Mignolet as well as a return for captain Steven Gerrard. One notable absentee was Spanish keeper Pepe Reina, who wasn’t even on the bench as he looks set to complete a switch to Italian side Napoli.
By kick off, the atmosphere was even greater but once the whistle sounded, it quickly became apparent that Liverpool’s slick passing style would be compromised by the awful pitch. Despite this, Liverpool (in their 3rd kit) enjoyed the majority of possession with the Indonesians happy to let them knock it around at a leisurely pace as they looked to avoid a repeat of the mauling they got at the hands of Arsenal and they were almost undone inside 8 minutes.
Liverpool managed to work the ball out to the right hand side to Stewart Downing, who came inside before slipping the ball to the advanced Glen Johnson. The full back’s low cross was perfect for Iago Aspas to finish with an outrageous back heel however the flag was already up for an offside against Johnson. However, the Indonesian reprieve was only temporary as Liverpool took the lead just a couple of minutes later.
A move down the left hand side seemed to be going nowhere until Jose Enrique beautifully managed to get the ball to Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian schemer tried to link up with Luis Alberto but his pass was intercepted by a defender who proceeded to kick the ball into Coutinho and could only watch as the ball and Brazilian ran past him. All Coutinho had to do was beat Meiga in the Indonesian goal and he did just that, slipping it under the helpless keeper.
Liverpool had their tails up and they kept up their possession domination however they were almost caught out by the Indonesia XI and their impressive striker Titus Bonay. The number 20 got in behind Daniel Agger and was bound to be clean through until Simon Mignolet came rushing out and knocked it behind for a corner. The danger wasn’t over as Bonay headed over at the near post but he should have done better. Despite this scare, Liverpool were still strolling along and were not being truly tested but they still lacked penetration in the final third. Downing had a shot from range deflected over and when Daniel Agger came charging forward and linked up with Aspas and Coutinho, Liverpool fans’ expectations rose but he was closed out by the defence. They almost shot themselves in the foot midway through the first half.
Indonesia built a good attack down the left hand side before Steven Gerrard fouled the left back Sanadi on the corner of the box. The free kick was whipped in low and hard by Bustomi but Bonay couldn’t flick the ball towards the goal of Mignolet. And the Indonesians almost came to rue that miss just a couple of minutes later.
The impressive Enrique got to the byline on the left and stood up a cross for Aspas to attack. The Spaniard couldn’t quite reach it but the ball fell to the onrushing Downing. The winger’s effort was not a clean one and was straight at Meiga who could only parry it but eventually grabbed the ball at the feet of Downing who was trying to get the rebound. Aspas was involved again just minutes later, linking up with the impressive Luis Alberto who managed to work the ball onto his right foot on the edge of the area but his powerful strike hit the crossbar on its way over.
Gerrard was really covering the ground on his return with Alberto, Aspas and Coutinho looking sharp throughout while Mignolet had had very little to do. That quickly changed when Indonesian striker Sergio Van Dijk set his sights from range. He caught his shot beautifully from 35 yards which forced Mignolet to dive to his right to turn it behind. It was another little warning that Indonesia were not completely out of it.
While Indonesia’s attack was causing a little trouble, their defence was almost giving away goals for free. Aspas got a sight on goal close to half time but his left footed shot across goal was scuffed and scooped rather than struck true. It was an easy one for Meiga to deal with but centre back Igbonefo stuck his head out and both defender and goalkeeper breathed a sigh of relief as the ball went just wide. Liverpool did manage to carve out one last chance for Aspas before the end of the half, however he could only tamely head wide Coutinho’s left wing cross.
Liverpool used the break to change things up with Joe Allen (himself returning to fitness following an injury) on for Gerrard and youngster Jack Robinson on for Enrique. The second half started much like the first ended – Liverpool dominating possession without creating clear chances. That all changed ten minutes into the half. Alberto and Coutinho hassled and harried the defence in the Indonesia half and the ball ended up at the feet of Aspas. The Spaniard was one on one with Meiga and showed great composure to round the keeper but his shot was skewed high over the bar. It was more a case of a massive bobble from the pitch rather than a terrible miss from the striker.
Indonesia were still causing the Liverpool defence a couple of problems and a prolonged spell of pressure led to a corner. That came to nothing but Coutinho was able to break away for Liverpool and he fed Aspas. He was held up but he still managed to slip the ball back to Coutinho 15 yards from goal. The Brazilian attempted to curl it into the top corner but could only put it over the bar. Liverpool kept pressing with Robinson forcing a save from Meiga with a shot from near enough 40 yards before a host of Liverpool substitutes. Fabio Borini, Jordan Henderson, Martin Skrtel, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Ibe, Andre Wisdom, Martin Kelly and Oussama Assaidi all checked in for Liverpool and Borini almost had an immediate impact. He struck a lovely free kick which Meiga parried away. The danger wasn’t gone until Borini dragged the second effort wide.
The substitutes galvanised Liverpool and they began to really get at the Indonesian defence with Ibe and Sterling looking particularly impressive and they were involved when Liverpool almost got a second with 18 minutes to go. Ibe gave the ball to Borini who played it down the right wing to Assaidi. The Moroccan winger played a cross into the area where Borini was arriving. The Italian missed his kick but Sterling was waiting behind him but his half volley hit the bar. And just a minute later, Assaidi got to the byline on the left and stood up the ball for Ibe but the youngster could only loop a header onto the roof of the net.
The game began to die down again as the Indonesians tired but, with 9 minutes left, Liverpool almost got a second. Henderson picked up the ball in his own half and spotted the run of Sterling in behind. He picked out the winger with a lovely 60 yard pass over the defence but Sterling could only hit the side netting at the near post even with Borini inside him and, perhaps, in a better position. Liverpool did finally get a second with just 3 minutes to go.
Indonesia had won a corner which Liverpool managed to clear out to the left wing where Ibe picked up the ball. The young winger put his head down and ran about 50 yards, burning past his marker. He then had the composure to knock into an unmarked Assaidi who drew out Meiga before unselfishly passing the ball to Sterling who rolled it into the empty net. It was a goal all from the good work and pace of Ibe who has really impressed in his outings for the first team thus far.
The referee blew the full time whistle with Liverpool comfortable winners without ever being massively impressive. This was a good workout for the side with positives being the continued recovery of Allen and Kelly, the return of Gerrard and the performances of Alberto, Aspas, Ibe and Sterling. However, with the Premier League season less than a month away, Brendan Rodgers knows that his side are going to have be a lot better to achieve their targets this season.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson (Kelly 65), Toure (Skrtel 65), Agger (Wisdom 65), Enrique (Robinson 46), Lucas (Henderson 65), Gerrard (c) (Allen 46), Alberto (Sterling 65), Coutinho (Ibe 65), Downing (Assaidi 65), Aspas (Borini 65)
Unused substitutes: Jones, Spearing, Flanagan
Scorers: Coutinho 10, Sterling 87
Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling