Liverpool beat Olympiakos 1-0 in their first game of the International Champions Cup in Chicago on Sunday night, prevailing in a dull slog courtesy of a Raheem Sterling goal.
In just the fifth minute, Steven Gerrard played a sharp pass into Daniel Sturridge, but the striker slipped as he took the shot. He made enough contact for the ball to bounce into the path of the alert Raheem Sterling though, who was speculating on a rebound. The little winger picked the ball up and dinked it past goalkeeper Balazs Megyeri for the game's only tally.
What followed was a drab affair. Olympiakos again made life uncomfortable for a more reputable team by playing the ball and insisting on pushing forward. That's how they'd upset AC Milan 3-0 on Thursday. But Liverpool were not so easily picked apart, defending just well enough to maintain the clean sheet.
Yet the Reds seemed to lose interest following that Sterling goal. They mostly hung back and let their opponents come at them, lurking on the counter instead. This was jarring, considering how joyously the Reds had played last season, savoring both the possession and the initiative. It wasn't until deep in the second half that they began playing the ball some
It was fairly clear that this Liverpool team is a work in progress, if it is to replicate last year's surprising title challenge in the Premier League. Sterling and Sturridge aren't on the same page yet, as evidenced by their failure to link up on the counter. And their new recruit on the forward line Lazar Markovic is seemingly still trying to figure out the system. He did have a promising moment though. In the 37th minute, he wriggled through two defenders after good work from fellow newbie Emre Can, but put his finish way high and wide.
In the second half, it was Olympiakos that had the better chances. In the 50th minute, Gevorg Ghazaryan opened up some space for himself just outside the Liverpool box on the counter, but smacked his curler off the crossbar. And a half hour later, Joe Allen coughed up the ball. But a timely Sebastian Coates challenged and Brad Jones save prevented the equalizer.
Liverpool plainly have some issues to address. At the dawn of this post-Luis Suarez age â now that their star striker is off to Barcelona â they badly lacked a presence in the box to get on the end of various crosses and square balls. So too, for that matter, did they lack someone to drop between the lines and make the play, a task Suarez also took on. And their defense lacks poise and polish at the moment.
Luckily for them, some three weeks remain until the season begins.