Liverpool draw with Sporting - what we learned: Mignolet 'does a Karius' and patience needed with Oxlade-Chamberlain

Chris Bascombe
The Telegraph

Liverpool ended their pre-season tour of the USA with a 2-2 draw against Sporting Lisbon at the Yankee Stadium.

The sides shared the Western Union Cup after the scores remained tied at the final whistle in New York.

An error from Simon Mignolet gave Sporting an early lead after four minutes, with Bruno Fernandes' shot from 30 yards bouncing through the goalkeeper's hands.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

Liverpool then upped the tempo and Divock Origi levelled things up on a rebound from close range in the 20th minute.

Several more chances to score followed, before Georginio Wijnaldum secured the advantage just before the break following a cross from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

But Klopp's men did not stay out in front for long, as Wendel tied the scores once again eight minutes into the second half.

Here are Telegraph Sport’s key talking points from Yankee Stadium...

Record temperatures do not mix well with football

Liverpool’s first couple of tour matches had the unwanted distinction of being less entertaining than the open coaching sessions - like they were on a US tour of walking football. There was a reason for that, of course.

Training in record-breaking heat in the morning before playing in record- breaking heat in the evening is not conducive to quality. Jurgen Klopp evidently decided enough was enough in New York’s Yankee Stadium.

Rather than train, Liverpool’s players enjoyed a gentle stroll in Central Park on the morning of the game and the manager selected what, on paper at least, looked his strongest available starting XI. Seven of those in the line-up kicked off the Champions League final. They played an hour before the subs arrived.

<span>Klopp selected what, on paper at least, looked his strongest available starting XI</span> <span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
Klopp selected what, on paper at least, looked his strongest available starting XI Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Despite another winless encounter in front of a partisan crowd, there was an improvement against Sporting Lisbon. It was a bit more like Klopp’s Liverpool even if miles from the real deal - the unusual features being defensive carelessness and obvious lack of a killer instinct without the familiar front three.

In the first half, especially, they looked fitter and a yard quicker than in previous fixtures. Despite conceding early in unusual circumstances, it was a reassuring first half with Divock Origi and Gini Wijnaldum ensuring the experienced line-up led at half-time, while Fabinho was the imperious midfielder of last season.

Nevertheless, the summer rustiness lingered as Sporting equalised just after half time through Marcus Wendel. It meant Liverpool returned to the UK with the chastening record of two defeats and a draw. The French training camp next week will shake of those lingering cobwebs.

Mignolet raises United’s price for Fernandes

Although Liverpool do not want to sell Simon Mignolet, he will see these warm-up games as a chance to put himself in the shop window. Sadly, he resembled a mannequin when conceding Liverpool’s opening goal. To give the error its full description, it is what is now technically called ‘doing a Karius’.

A hopeful shot from Bruno Fernandes – the player every club in Europe is rumoured to have bid for this summer – bounced off Mignolet’s arm into the net.

Maybe it was a cunning plan from Mignolet to ensure if Manchester United sign Fernandes he will cost a few more million. He looks a tidy player and his manager did not sound too confident he will stay in Portugal

“Bruno is a good player, an important player,” said Marcel Keizer.

“Everyone would like that he stays but we do not know what the future will bring so we have to wait.”

Asked about a possible move to Manchester United, he added: "I am just the coach. You ask the wrong guy. We know he plays very well and clubs like him and we have to see what happens. This is the job for the coach. You realise some players can go. Every player can go. Wait and see."

<span>Bruno Fernandes is a reported target for Manchester United</span> <span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
Bruno Fernandes is a reported target for Manchester United Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Klopp did take the chance to rule Liverpool out of any bid for the midfielder.

“If he will (sign for United) then we will face him. He's obviously a really good player,” said Klopp.

"They have already a few really good players, so that will probably make them stronger. It's not nice, but (talking about United’s transfer business) is not our cup of tea, to be honest.”

With Mignolet’s confidence seemingly shaken, the US fans were unforgiving for a while, nervously howling whenever the keeper accepted possession.

But credit the Belgian who was able to erase the blemish with a double reflex save to preserve Liverpool’s lead at half-time, twice denying Luciano Vietto.

Patience needed with Oxlade-Chamberlain

You can well imagine the headline ‘Mr Versatile’ shadowing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain this season. He is averaging a couple of positions a game, whether as an orthodox winger, a more withdrawn striker or advanced midfielder.

He started in the attacking three with Wijnaldum and Divock Origi and demonstrated his nimble footwork.

Oxlade-Chamberlain claimed an assist when Wijnaldum put Liverpool ahead a minute before half time, although the Portuguese defending was poor.

But as he is not back to his level yet, Klopp explaining that is no surprise given a niggling muscle issue.

<span>Oxlade-Chamberlain is continuing his comeback from a long-term knee injury</span> <span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
Oxlade-Chamberlain is continuing his comeback from a long-term knee injury Credit: GETTY IMAGES

“He has been a bit unlucky with a calf problem,” said Klopp.

“It is not a tear but something he has from time to time when the intensity gets too high for him. He had to get through the first 20 minutes when he was really involved and then he felt it. Then he was not part of the game anymore, which is not too cool for the others if there is someone on and off. Apart from that he has made all the sessions, which is unbelievably important. That is very positive.”

Klopp coy on the next stage of his Anfield masterplan

If Manchester City’s scouts have watched the tour games they will have learned little, so when Klopp was asked to offer some insight as to what might be expected he was predictably coy.

“Guardiola will be picking at you piece by piece, how will you evolve?” Klopp was asked.

“He picks us piece by piece and I give you the rest of the information?” replied the Liverpool coach.

“I would be happy if we start at the similar level to last year. That would not be bad. There is space for improvement. It is easy to plan what you want to improve in the office but then you miss three players or four others are not there and it becomes a theoretical part of football and you have to throw the plans in the bin so often, sometimes ten minutes before a game. Stability, consistency, fighting for results - it is all important.

<span>Klopp says Liverpool must now move on from their Champions League win </span> <span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
Klopp says Liverpool must now move on from their Champions League win Credit: GETTY IMAGES

"Consistency on a high level is most important. If we can do that again it can be annoying playing against us and we must come again so they think when they play Liverpool or go to Anfield it is not fun. Last year was good and obviously we have not changed much. The boys should be there again to make the next step. They are older and more experienced.”

The immediate step, Klopp revealed, is welcoming Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri to training this weekend.

But after a tour of celebration, Klopp has also brought the Champions League party to its end.

“After this trip nobody should talk to me about the Champions League trophy. We don’t carry it with us. Now we start a new chapter," he said.

Sepp Van Den Berg’s unforgettable four minutes

<span>17-year-old Van den Berg enjoyed a four-minute cameo on his debut</span> <span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
17-year-old Van den Berg enjoyed a four-minute cameo on his debut Credit: GETTY IMAGES

As the clock ticked towards 89 minutes, Klopp charitably gave Dutch youngster Sepp Van Den Berg his debut. He received a raucous welcome from the crowd as he enjoyed the last minute and a further three of added time, his every touch and safe six yard pass prompting as much approval as an Origi winner against Barcelona.

It may be churlish to suggest the US audience has somewhat overestimated Van Den Berg’s role this season, or even next year. He is a player for the future rather than immediate present.

But if he was under any illusions about the fanaticism he has signed up to, he knows well enough now.

Featured from our writers

What to read next