It was a stress-free evening for Liverpool’s players and fans alike, as the Reds ran away comfortable victors at the LNER stadium on Thursday. Jürgen Klopp’s side controlled the game from start to finish, knocking the ball around with confidence and, crucially, being extremely clinical in front of goal.
With so many fringe players given the opportunity to impress, it could have been easy for the quality and energy levels to drop significantly. However, this performance showed the depth now available to Klopp and his staff, with several players putting in impressive displays to push their names forward to be within the first team picture more frequently.
The German made 10 changes from the side that defeated Chelsea 2-0 on Sunday at Stamford Bridge. Virgil van Dijk retained his place in the side whilst the rest of the team was rotated for youth and players on the fringes of the starting eleven. This was always the plan with the Carabao Cup seen as an opportunity to rest several players with stronger, and more important, challenges ahead.
Here are the winners and losers from the game:
Takumi MinaminoEmbed from Getty Images
He was the consistent narrative in all of Liverpool’s positive attacks during the game. It was an excellent display by the Japanese international, who is continuing to make positive strides towards more first team opportunities in the near future. The way he manipulated the Lincoln centre backs was magnificent, normally dropping back to collect the ball and spinning in behind to great effect.
His two goals were the clear highlights of his performance. His first, after sloppy play from the opposition, was took in a deadly fashion. After the ball deflected into his path; the 25-year-old opened his body up to deliciously curl the ball into the top right corner. It was a finish that clearly boosted his confidence and got him going for the rest of the game.
His second finish was his new found predatory instinct taking centre stage. After Harvey Elliott was denied by the Imps goalkeeper, Minamino followed up perfectly to tuck the ball home into the empty net. Several pieces of eye-catching football followed with great link up play between himself and Curtis Jones catching the eye.
It is another impressive statement performance from the former RB Salzburg player. Forget that it is against a League One side, they still needed beating and Minamino put in a very impressive display to thoroughly impress Klopp and fans alike.
Curtis JonesEmbed from Getty Images
It was another mature performance from the youngster who seems to impress every time he takes the field for the Reds. Even with Shaqiri and Grujić alongside him, the teenager looked the senior player as he dictated everything in the middle of the park. His build up play was sublime, while his partnership with Minamino throughout the night proved extremely fruitful.
The academy graduate exudes confidence whenever he’s on the ball. This was clearly apparent with both of his goals. His first strike was a perfectly composed finish into the top corner after a knock down from Origi. This finish has become something of a trademark for Jones with previous finishes on his record scored in a similar vain.
His second goal had a majestic build up that showed Jones’ impressive game awareness. Once he retained possession, he turned on his touch removing two players from the game immediately, with Jones now bearing down on goal. Like his first goal, the Englishman opened his body to once again to guide the ball into the top right corner via a deflection.
With Thiago now a Liverpool player, and a plethora of midfield options available to Klopp, Jones might have to bide his time once again in cup competitions. However, if he continues to produce performances like this, it won’t be surprising to see the 19-year-old gain more Premier League and Champions League appearances in the near future.
Harvey ElliottEmbed from Getty Images
Unfortunately for the teenager he made the smallest impact of any Liverpool player involved in the game. With so many other players taking the spotlight, Elliott had tried to force himself onto the ball on several occasions but was limited to diverting the ball elsewhere.
The Englishman didn’t play badly at all. This should be stressed. It was the fact that the cast around him all contributed significantly to the game with a goal. He did manage an assist during his display but was taken off for debutant Diogo Jota not long after.
He is a young, developing player who has an extremely high ceiling, with all signs pointing in the right direction. If he continues to be given opportunities and perform well, he will become an extremely good and reliable player in the Reds future.
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