A goalless draw played out in Hong Kong between Portsmouth and Liverpool was decided on penalties. Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun both saw their spot kicks saved by former Reds keeper David James resulting in a 4-2 win for Pompey.
Fernando Torres was only granted permission to play just minutes before kick-off, after delays in Spain almost prevented his international clearance coming through. He didn’t start the game, but played well, without scoring, for the time he was on. Lucas Leiva’s clearance came through in time and he made his debut by coming on in the second half.
Liverpool were the better of the two teams over the 90 minutes, but it goes without saying that without scoring you won’t win a game. It is only pre-season, and the game was played in conditions that Liverpool are unlikely to be facing in the season proper. Leiva’s debut was little more than a token appearance for just eight minutes, likewise Gerrard’s appearance two minutes later after being out with injury from the first match.
Torres and Benayoun combined well in the second half in a move that almost certainly would have led to a goal had the linesman not called offside. Replays showed the call was harsh, but David James’ form was such that he didn’t look likely to be beaten during the ninety minutes.
In the first half Dirk Kuyt had most of the chances, but David James was determined he wouldn’t be beaten. When James wasn’t making the saves Kuyt wasn’t quite getting on target.
Apart from the failure to put chances away Liverpool played well throughout the game, throughout the side. Harry Kewell and Jermaine Pennant provided good service from out wide, Xabi Alonso’s passing was at its best from the centre. Momo Sissoko was looking more like the player he was before his injury last season that had left him out of sorts for the tail-end of the campaign.
Against the run of play Pepe Reina was called into action when faced one-on-one with Gary O’Neill. Pepe stood tall and as the cliché goes made himself look big, managing to thwart Pompey’s would-be-goalscorer with his right leg.
Torres must have found it strange trying to prepare for a game he still wasn’t sure he was allowed to play in until the last minutes. The players were already lined up for the kick-off when the clearance was received, and Premiership officials asked Harry Redknapp if he was willing to allow Torres to be added to the squad at that late stage. He was and Torres finally came on shortly into the second half. The new number nine will be pleased with his performance if not with his actual shots at goal, although again David James was showing how well he can play when his calamitous side isn’t dominating his performance, making more important saves.
Jermaine Pennant managed to outfox James, rounding him on the edge of the box, but lacked composure and shot over the bar. Portsmouth hit the post shortly after.
Portsmouth’s Lua Lua managed to hit the post but eventually the final whistle blew and it was time for penalties. Liverpool’s record in competitive shoot-outs is of course hugely impressive, but in this friendly it wasn’t to be. Pompey will be taking the Asia Trophy home with them, but Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez will be taking home what he has learned about his players, new and old, in this tournament.
Next for Liverpool is a friendly against Shanghai Shenua next Friday in Holland, (although this is being billed as a “Liverpool XI”), before another friendly against Feyenoord two days later, then it’s down to the serious stuff, with the Champions League qualifiers and Premiership getting underway.
Liverpool: Reina, Riise (Arbeloa), Hyypia, Agger (Carragher),Finnan, Kewell (Torres), Sissoko (Leiva), Alonso, Pennant (Gerrard), Kuyt, Babel (Benayoun)
Unused subs: Crouch, Carson, Threlfall, Voronin, Martin
Portsmouth: 4 (Utaka missed, Taylor, Lua Lua, Hreidarsson, Kranjcar)
Liverpool: 2 (Gerrard, Kuyt, Torres missed, Benayoun missed)