Digital Football Journalist @ronnabe
Divock Origi and Giorginio Wijnaldum on target for Jurgen Klopp’s side
Last Updated: 25/07/19 4:07am
Bruno Fernandes admitted this week he is interested in a move to England
Man Utd target Bruno Fernandes excelled with a goal and an assist as Liverpool ended their US tour with a 2-2 draw with Sporting.
The Portuguese midfielder scored a fortuitous opener inside five minutes at the Yankee Stadium, when his routine effort from 25 yards was misjudged by Simon Mignolet and deflected into his own net.
Liverpool responded well and Divock Origi poked in when Jordan Henderson’s header was saved (20) and they took a half-time lead when Giorginio Wijnaldum’s effort struck Luis Neto on its way past Renan Ribeiro a minute before the break.
Sporting got back on level terms nine minutes into the second period when Fernandes sold Trent Alexander-Arnold with a lovely turn before feeding Wendel to slot in the equaliser, but despite forcing a number of saves out of Mignolet as the game wore on, the Portuguese side could not find a winner.
Starting XI: Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Milner, Fabinho; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Origi, Wijnaldum.
How Liverpool ended their US tour
The one thing no player wanted to make was an early howler – but Mignolet’s nightmare came true when Fernandes’ well-struck but very saveable effort from distance struck his arm and deflected into the bottom corner.
Liverpool picked themselves up and levelled in familiar fashion when Wijnaldum kept a long ball into the box alive, crossed for Henderson and Origi mopped up once his captain’s header had been saved.
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Even without their regular front three their attacking impetus was impressive, but Sporting wasted two fine chances to restore their lead when Wendell saw a fine 20-yard effort clatter off the post and moments later Ilori somehow turned a pinpoint cross wide from no more than six yards.
Liverpool then punished some hesitant defending when Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross-field ball was misjudged by Ilori who missed it entirely, giving Wijnaldum space to turn inside and beat Ribeiro with the help of a deflection off Neto.
There was still time for more at both ends and only Fernandes’ sensational sprint and block stopped Wijnaldum adding a second before half-time, while at the other end Mignolet redeemed his early error with a wonderful double-save from two Luciano Vietto efforts from close-range.
After half-time an even game swung in Sporting’s favour and they twice came close to levelling before finally doing so when Fernandes found Alexander-Arnold out of position on the Liverpool right and when the defender caught up with him, turned him with some impressive trickery before squaring for Wendel, who took a touch and fired into the far corner.
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Liverpool may have edged back ahead had Virgil Van Dijk, already denied by a save earlier in the game, not headed against the woodwork from an Alexander-Arnold corner soon after, but most of the half belonged to Sporting who nearly went in front when Rafinha and Cabral found themselves two-on-two, and the former forced a sprawling save from Mignolet.
There was little evidence of Klopp’s flowing football in the latter stages as a number of Liverpool changes killed their already inconsistent rhythm, and in the end a draw proved a result they would probably be happy with.
How did Fernandes play?
If this was an audition against a top Premier League side with Manchester United ready to try to bring him to Old Trafford, Fernandes got the part.
He was excellent with and without the ball, had a touch of fortune about his opener but made his own luck with his athletic performance, always wanting the ball, generally moving it on into a more dangerous area and even sprinting back to block Wijnaldum from doubling his tally in first-half injury time with a wonderful block.
Captains Bruno Fernandes and Jordan Henderson shared the Western Union Cup
The 24-year-old played a little deeper than he has at times for Sporting, in what was often a box-to-box role rather than at 10, but he looked versatile and just as confident and capable when he was further forward than when he was sitting deep.
How will Liverpool judge their trip Stateside?
This was the last of three games Liverpool have played during their brief US tour, and the first they haven’t lost. It’s only pre-season but just as they had against Dortmund and Sevilla, they looked very open defensively, in stark contrast to their Premier League campaign last season.
There was some food for thought for Jurgen Klopp with Wijnaldum impressing on the left of a front three, although when Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Xherdan Shaqiri return he will surely return to being a last-resort in that position.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have drawn one and lost two of their three games in the US – on last year’s tour, they won two and lost one
Elsewhere Origi looked promising leading the line and still enjoying the confidence that scoring in a Champions League final must bring, netting for the second game in a row.
Overall, while Liverpool still look some way off in terms of their tactical preparation, their first-team squad have remained fit and played three high-level games while Stateside, and that can only help their cause.
After arriving back in the UK, Liverpool play host to Napoli at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield on Sunday at 5pm.