By Matt Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez
Liverpool got their season underway with a spirited second-half performance at Wembley – but lost the FA Community Shield to Manchester City on penalties.
Joel Matip was the unlikely goalscorer after Raheem Sterling put the Premier League champions ahead, but Georginio Wijnaldum saw his spot-kick saved by the excellent Claudio Bravo and the Sky Blues won 5-4.
Jürgen Klopp showed his intent to start the season well, fielding his strongest possible XI with the only notable absentee being Sadio Mané after his AFCON duties. Liverpool started the game off strongly, with Roberto Firmino and Salah linking up well to cause trouble for the City back line. It was City, however, who struck first through a former Red.
A free kick on the edge of Liverpool’s box was worked wide by City. A ball into the box found David Silva who flicked it onto an unmarked Sterling who was ready and waiting to tap it home.
The former Liverpool man reacted quickly, dispatching the loose ball into the net past a sprawling Alisson who probably should have done better. 1-0 City after 12 minutes.
Following the goal, Liverpool struggled to get any rhythm in their play but slowly grew back into the game with Salah proving to be their greatest hope of striking back. The Egyptian found the ball drop to him in an awkward position in the City box but could only blast it over the bar with the outside of his left boot.
Despite getting themselves somewhat back into the game, Liverpool were unable to get a goal back before the 45-minute mark and went into the halftime break 1-0 down. Whatever Klopp said at half-time clearly worked as the Reds came out looking like a completely different side to the one which took to the field in the first half.
Within the opening 15 minutes, Liverpool piled the pressure on Pep Guardiola’s side and struck the woodwork on two occasions within a tense few minutes. An in-swinging corner from Trent Alexander-Arnold found Virgil van Dijk who connected on the half-volley striking the crossbar of Claudio Bravo. The ball cannoned downwards off the woodwork and onto the line before being cleared acrobatically by Silva.
Minutes later the Reds were at it again – this time through Salah. The Egyptian took it past Zinchenko before curling it against the frame of Bravo’s goal. Although not having hit the back of the net, the attempts seemed to boost the mood of both the players and the Liverpool fans in attendance, as the Reds ramped up the pressure and the noise in Wembley.
The Red wave of pressure final broke through in the form of substitute Joel Matip. A Jordan Henderson free kick found Van Dijk peeling away at the back post, and the much talked about Balon d’Or contender took it from there. The Dutchman took a touch before looping it back across goal and putting it on a plate for his centre back partner to nod home. After 77 minutes Klopp’s men were finally level.
Liverpool almost took the lead through Naby Keita soon after pulling level. Brilliant link up between Xherdan Shaqiri and Adam Lallana saw the Reds power up the field before the Englishman laid it off to Liverpool’s number eight to strike first time. A brilliant palm away from Bravo saw an end to the imminent danger but the Red tide continued as Liverpool looked to win the game in the 90.
Salah thought he’d won it as the clock ticked into the fifth minute of added time, but a miraculous goal-line clearance from Kyle Walker denied his lofted header over the Chilean goalkeeper.
The game was decided on spot kicks, as per Community Shield tradition with City winning 5-4 and securing their first trophy in 2019/20.
But Liverpool can take confidence from a dominant second-half showing into their Premier League opener against Norwich City on Friday.