Liverpool pre-season nearly boils over against Sevilla as Larouci stretchered off after horror tackl
The youngster fell victim to a vicious red-card challenge from Joris Gnagnon, further marring an ugly affair in the Boston heat
From sizzling South Bend to the Boston furnace, Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the USA threatened to boil over.
Beaten by Borussia Dortmund on Friday, the Reds found themselves embroiled in the most ill-tempered of ‘friendlies’ against old foes Sevilla here at Fenway Park. They lost 2-1.
This was a game that will live in the memory, but not for the right reasons. The Spaniards’ robust approach left a mark, quite literally.
Liverpool will hope Yasser Larouci, victim of a disgraceful second-half ‘challenge’ from Sevilla substitute Joris Gnagnon, is not seriously injured. The 18-year-old, who has made a positive impact for the Reds this summer, was taken off on a stretcher after Gnagnon’s ridiculous kick out.
Jurgen Klopp had already made his feelings perfectly clear to Julen Lopetegui, his opposite number, after a first-half littered with dubious tackles and flailing arms. The Liverpool boss says he is “rarely happy” after pre-season games; he will have been fuming by what he saw here.
The football, when it broke out, wasn’t great. This was officially Boston’s hottest day since 1991, and it showed in the quality of the game. Even a kick-off of 6pm local time didn’t help, with the temperature still above 100 degrees Fahrenheit as the game began. Not an ideal day for Liverpool to debut their new all-black third kit, then.
Sevilla’s questionable approach aside, there was, in truth, not a great deal to get worked up about. Liverpool fielded a different side in both halves – and were forced to bring Bobby Duncan on after Larouci’s evening was ended – and lacked cohesion and intensity for the most part. Perhaps, given the nature of the game, that was a good thing.
There was a first Reds outing for Andy Lonergan, with the veteran goalkeeper playing the first 45 minutes. Lonergan’s last game had been for League One strugglers Rochdale against Scunthorpe in March, but the 35-year-old showed no signs of rustiness here. One save in particular, from Luuk de Jong, caught the eye.
Liverpool had started reasonably, Ben Woodburn and Divock Origi going close in the early exchanges, but there was a lack of bite and intensity to their play throughout the opening period as Sevilla, with the irascible Ever Banega influential, tested them defensively. The Reds seemed particularly troubled by crosses into their box, either from set-pieces or from open play.
It would be one such delivery, from Jesus Navas, which led to the Spaniards’ opener. Navas’ low ball from the right clipped Nat Phillips and fell kindly for another ex-Manchester City man, Nolito, to beat Lonergan with a well-taken first-time finish.
Liverpool at least levelled before the break, Origi on hand to lash home from close range after Phillips’ header had been blocked. The Belgian’s poaching instincts, so evident last season, remain as strong as ever.
Sevilla, reduced to 10 men after Gnagnon’s moment of madness, snatched the win in the final minute, Alejandro Pozo finishing smartly after a counter-attack to condemn Liverpool to a second defeat in 48 hours.
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From here, they head to New York, where temperatures are expected to be a little more favourable.
Klopp will hope Sporting Lisbon, opponents at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night, are a little less fired-up for a friendly match than Sevilla were here.
The Spaniards won’t be getting a call next summer, that’s for sure.
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