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A-League's best made to look second rate by second-string Reds


If ever a team was going to give Sydney FC a football masterclass this season it had to be an English Premier League heavyweight like Liverpool.

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Even if it was only an end-of-season game, played after a fortnight of post-A-League celebrations and when the off-season holidays beckoned for Graham Arnold’s champions.

Nonetheless the Reds, fresh from sealing their return to the Champions League, ran riot to topple the Sky Blues 3-0 at ANZ Stadium last night.

One had only look at Liverpool’s line-up to realise this was the very definition of an exhibition match.

Of the players that started their final Premier League game against Middlesbrough on Sunday only three were in the XI against Sydney – Dejan Lovren, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge.

Included were two retirees in Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, jokingly referred to as “pundits” by merry manager Jurgen Klopp pre-game.

Not that it bothered the jovial sea of red in the stands who, between flying paper planes, erupted into cheers every time club legend Gerrard touched the ball.

The crowd of nearly 73,000 offered not even a whiff of home support to Sydney, who deployed a strong line-up despite missing key imports Milos Ninkovic and Jordy Buijs and the departed Filip Holosko, and gave youngsters a run off the bench.

But for all the talk of Liverpool’s near-ludicrously late arrival, it was hard to pick which team had just hopped off a 24-hour flight 11 hours prior.

The Reds started fast, Sturridge scoring the eighth-minute opener when he bamboozled Alex Wilkinson in the box before firing the ball past Danny Vukovic and inside the far post.

Firmino’s every touch was class and there was no finer example than when the Brazilian chipped a lofted pass for Alberto Moreno to volley home with equal precision for the visitors’ second.

Sturridge, who managed a paltry three Premier League goals this season, did all the work for Liverpool’s third with a cross that took a fortunate deflection off Wilkinson and then struck Firmino before nestling into the net.

“I had no idea how we would go in the game,” Klopp said.

“It was the most intense football trip for an away game I’ve ever had.”

The closest the Sky Blues came to getting one back was when David Carney hit the woodwork on the tick of halftime and young substitute Will Mutch fluffed his lines late on with the goal at his mercy.

However, the heat was mostly on a quick-thinking Vukovic.

Before the break there’d already been two Reds penalty shouts, including one very dubious Rhyan Grant elbow to the back of Gerrard that prompted a gesticulating, tracksuited Klopp to take it up with referee Peter Green as the players went down the tunnel at halftime.

Sydney started the second half brightly and substitute Matt Simon had a field day, distributing the ball well under pressure and forcing Simon Mignolet into a diving save, but there would be no answer from the Sky Blues.

“It was good for the fans I suppose, a good exhibition game,” Arnold said.

“It’s good for our boys, the Australian kids especially, to come up against that quality.”


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