Player ratings: MK Dons 0-2 Liverpool

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For the first time in three years, we’ve got past the first round of the league cup. In previous years, I haven’t been too bothered by this, knowing we didn’t have a squad capable of competing on three or four fronts and that Champions League qualification was way more important for the development of the club. Things are different now though. We do have a proper squad and we absolutely need to be able to give some of our fringe players some game time to keep them sharp, as they’ll undoubtedly be needed over the course of a long, hard season. Sweeping changes to the squad for last night’s game then but was it too many? Let’s take a look.

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Kelleher (6) - Bit of a mixed bag for the kid. Read the game well in the opening stages to come out and meet with his head but then very nearly handled outside the box. Flapped horribly at one corner but also made a point blank save from a close range header, although I’m not sure how much he knew about it. Difficult game to judge the lad on.

Hoever (7) - Scored an extra point for the goal but I don’t think this lad is ready for the first team yet.  He still wants too long on the ball, his reading of the game isn’t up to scratch and he’s far too easy to dominate physically for a defender. Showed glimpses of the player he’ll become as he intercepted nicely on a couple of occasions but generally when he’d drifted toward the centre of defence, where he looks more comfortable. Took his header brilliantly though and he’ll take great confidence from scoring. Needs more time to develop in the academy though.

Gomez (7) - Played in third gear for most of the night and you could see he was at a different level to MK Dons attackers. Won the vast majority of his individual battles, demonstrated good pace and dribbled the ball out from the back well on a number of occasions. Top class backup.

Lovren (6) - We saw the good and the bad of Dejan last night. Rule #1 of defending - Don’t let the ball bounce. Lovren’s first involvement of the game was to let the ball bounce over his head, get himself dispossessed by the onrushing attacker, conceding a good chance. In the latter stages, showed his good side with a brave, goal saving block and another headed clearance off the line. This will be Lovren’s final season with us, no doubt.

Milner (8) - I really wanted to give man of the match to one of the kids but a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win just can’t be ignored. Switches effortlessly to left back these days, and was a thorn in the side for MK Dons, particularly as an attacking threat. Was lucky with his goal, as the keeper made a right mess of it but it was well struck and if you don’t buy a ticket as they say... Brilliant cross for Hoever’s goal and should have had another assist when putting it on a plate for Elliot, after some nice work out wide. Really important member of our squad.

Lallana (5) - I tried to pay extra attention to Lallana last night, to see how he fared in the number six role and to be honest, it was just about the one position he never seemed to be in. I’ve always doubted his ability to play that role and I think if we see him start  there in a big game this season, our squad really will be in dire straits on the injury front. Struggled to have any impact on the game at all. Another player who is undoubtedly in his final season with us.

Ox (6.5) - Ring rust still apparent in a lot of his game but was positive throughout and not scared to take a player on, albeit with mixed success. That strike from distance though that was tipped onto the post... That’s exactly what we’ve been missing from our midfield since Coutinho left and Ox himself was injured. You fancy Ox to knock in a number of them over the course of a season which just might be the difference in winning games that are heading for 0-0. Still on the road back to full fitness but some promising signs.

Keita (6) - A difficult match to make his return from injury in, as it was basically a team of players he’s never played with before. Had a bit of a Lallana type display in as much as he looked good on the ball but didn’t really do anything with it. It’s to be expected that he’ll be a bit rusty however, after a couple of long lay offs. Got just over an hour of competitive football under his belt though which will be important moving forward.

Elliot (7.5) - Young players develop at different rates but there are some that you can just tell have got it. At the tender age of 16, Harvey Elliot looks more than a cut above his peers, he looks almost ready to be playing first team football. He’s not physically competitive yet but his composure, technique and vision are a thing to behold from a 16 year old. Desperately unlucky not to score as he hit the bar twice and should have had an assist as he picked Milner out beautifully at the back post, only to see the resulting header drift agonisingly across the face of goal. That was only one of a number of excellent deliveries the youngster put in over the course of the match. This kid has a big future.

Brewster (5) - So I think it’s fair to say that we’re still wondering what all the fuss is about. This kid has been seriously hyped for some time now but I’ve yet to see why. By halftime he’d had the fewest touches of any of our players, which is quite poor considering our dominance. Missed a sitter and took one shot with his left foot that was absolutely horrible from a technical point of view. Looks like he needs to work harder too, if he has ambitions of breaking into our first team. I really hope this kid doesn’t believe his own hype because on last night’s display, he’s a million miles from taking Origi’s spot, never mind one of our first choice front three.

Jones (7) - Couldn’t get a touch for the first fifteen minutes but then picked up the ball and showed some nice footwork to fathom a decent shot on target for himself and he grew in confidence after that. Very neat and tidy in possession and put some decent crosses in. I’m not sure if LW is his natural position and he possibly lacks a bit of pace to play out wide but he gave a good account of himself and looks a good player.

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Chirivella (6) - Bit of a blast from the past and the only player on our bench last night to have played for Liverpool before. Did ok though, including one really good defensive block.

Kane (N/A) - Not to be too hard on the lad but this ‘youngster’ looks like a 45 year old man who’s no stranger to a pie and a pint. Rubbish surname too. Sorry Herbie...

Sepp (N/A) - Nice to have a ginger in the squad. Stop Robbo feeling homesick.

Klopp-watch (7) - Well you only needed to look at last night’s squad to see how seriously Jurgen is taking this competition. We won so his decision is vindicated but the fact Pedro Chirivella was the only player on our bench to have played for our first team before, shows Klopp wasn’t prepared to risk any of the first team by chasing the game had it gone wrong and with the chances they had, it very easily could have. As I said, we won so all is well but if we hadn’t, Klopp would have been facing some tough questions today. Saying that, he would have expected to have both Origi and Shaqiri available for this game, which would have provided a better balance of youth and experience.

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Summary:

Ultimately, the difference last night was the individual quality of both sets of players. They had a number good chances but lacked the quality to put them away and Liverpool fans are all acutely  aware of how much damage a dodgy goalie can do to you in cup competitions.

The game was a disjointed affair for the most part, as I assumed it would be when you just take a bunch of players and stick them together. There were a few positives to take though, Elliot was excellent I thought and Jones gave a good account of himself. Actually making a first team appearance is a great moment and brilliant experience for these kids, as is playing in a men’s game as opposed to youth football.

Overall though, that was a very unbalanced team that would undoubtedly have been punished by superior opposition and moving forward in the competition, I’d like to see a few more first team players although as previously stated, there would have been had Origi and Shaqiri been fit.

On to Sheffield United at the weekend then and they are not a team to be underestimated. Chris Wilder has done a brilliant job there and has them playing some good stuff but we should have too much for them, especially on the back of a full week’s rest and training. Nothing less than another three points will be enough and I fully expect that to be the outcome. Onwards and Kloppwards. YNWA
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