Liverpool sweeps Asian Tour with 3-nil win over Thailand
by rick olivares pic from the bangkok post
BANGKOK, THAILAND – Four pre-season games played. Four pre-season games won.
Liverpool Football Club closed out its Asian summer tour on a high note, a 3-nil thrashing of the Thai National Team at a jampacked Rajamangala Stadium despite rainy weather.
The familiar sea of red (some 50,000 paying patrons flocked to the match), the singing of the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” anthem, even the jerseys of Thailand – with a huge “Chang” in front of their jerseys (that prompted LFC’s veteran internationalist Glen Johnson to exclaim, “They look just like a Far East version of Everton!”) reminded the visiting team of some of the finer comforts of home. Except they were in Bangkok, Thailand.
Last season, the Reds drew twice with Everton in their Premier League derbies, 2-2 and a scoreless draw.
This new season, they dispatched their Chang-bedecked opponents albeit after a difficult first half where the War Elephants threatened on several occasions with striker Teerasil Dangda getting two magnificent opportunities to score.
In the Muangthong United forward’s first attempt, he faked off Liverpool defenders Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique to the right before bringing the ball back to the left where he fired just wide left. In his second attempt, he fired at Mignolet who punched away the ball that menacingly dipped to his left.
However, it wasn’t only Dangda who dazzled with his dribbling. Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho created, inspired, scored, and assisted on two goals while talismanic captain Steven Gerrard scored on a delightful chip of a layback by new Spanish striker Iago Aspas.
Aspas had the first opportunity to score when he latched on to a loose ball just outside the Thailand box but his thundercracker was deflected for a corner. Coutinho, whose arrival last January clearly helped Liverpool in the second half of the season attempted an acrobatic scissors kick but the shot hardly threatened.
A Johnson pass inside the box found Fabio Borini whose one touch shot went straight to Thai keeper Kosin Hathairattanakool.
Then came the goal of the match in the 17th minute when Coutinho dribbled some 12 yards, first ditching midfielder Adul Lasoh not once but twice then had defenders Pirot Sokam and Artit Daosawang going to the wrong way before side footing with his right for opening goal.
Instead of falling apart, Thailand regrouped and pressed high forcing Liverpool into a number of errors and poor clearances. Marking Coutinho and Joe Allen, the Reds saw Steven Gerrard go all the way to the back to help bring up the ball.
Upon the resumption of the half, Coutinho once more threatened with a forward pass to Aspas. He finally slipped the perfect through ball to Aspas three minutes into the second half. The Spaniard’s quick turn allowed him to beat the offside trap and all he had to do was pick his spot. Aspas slotted the ball to the left as the keeper dived right. Two-nil, Liverpool.
That broke the War Elephants’ backs.
To complete the rout and the magical spell for all those who went to the Rajamangala, Gerrard's delicate chip off a lay back by Aspas bended just over a defender who even flailed his arms to try and parry the shot. But it was no. Gerrard scored and it was 3-nil, LFC.
Luis Suarez began to warm up to massive cheers. When he entered the match with 27 minutes to spare, the venue erupted. The enigmatic Uruguayan, LFC's most dangerous threat up front since Fernando Torres flashed his old deadly form, nearly scored on a header but the ball rattled the crossbar.
Gerrard too nearly had another goal but his second effort like wise struck the crossbar.
With the 3-0 win, LFC finished their Asian tour with three wins, no losses, and no goals conceded (they previously defeated Preston North End, 4-0, last July 13 with Aspas also finding the back of the net. Brought in from Celta Vigo as insurance should Suarez depart for Arsenal or some other big moneyed club, it is hoped that the Spaniard will be like lightning in a bottle twice for Liverpool (referring to the acquisition of Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid).
The Reds return home to play Greek side Olympiakos (on August 3) then travel twice more at Valerenga (at Oslo, Norway’s Ullevaal Stadium on August 7), and at Celtic (at Aviva Stadium, Dublin on August 10) before the August 17 EPL opener against Stoke City in Anfield.
Despite the four-game pre-season streak, there’s guarded optimism over at Liverpool Football Club despite finishing their Asian Tour with a spotless record. The Reds did well in the pre-season of the previous year (2-2-0), their first under manager Brendan Rodgers but they crumbled in the first half of the Premiership before their late second half surge.
For my notes on the match, read this.
Johnson Toure Agger Enrique
Aspas Gerrard Allen
Wongsa Kraisom Songkrasin Anan Lasoh
Wannasri Daosawang Sokam Butmathan