Alex Gilbey scores in excellent draw against a strong Reds side.
- Wigan Athletic and Liverpool draw 1-1 in first pre-season friendly.
- Alex Gilbey scores in first half, Mohamed Salah equalises for Reds.
- Eight players handed first team debuts.
WIGAN ATHLETIC 1
Attendance – 12,715
The Paul Cook era begun at the DW Stadium with a morale-boosting draw against a really strong Liverpool side and Latics were full value for the result.
Alex Gilbey’s 20th minute shot was cancelled out by Mohamed Salah’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time and after both teams made eleven changes apiece, a young Latics side featuring many of the club’s Under 23 players more than held-their own.
Cook’s men went in level at the break after a really entertaining first half that swung from end to end. Salah and Adam Lallana threatened early for Liverpool, but Latics, having taken time to get in their stride, first threatened in the 13th minute when Omar Bogle found space to cut in from the right and blast a shot just wide from the edge of the box.
Two minutes later and Ryan Colclough jinxed a route past Jon Flanagan to cross from the right, the ball fell to Gilbey and he shot wide of Simon Mignolet’s right post.
In the 20th minute, Gilbey made amends in the best possible way after Craig Morgan’s mishit shot from the left side of the box found its way to him ten yards out and he lashed a shot in to the far corner, to the obvious delight of the Latics supporters.
A glorious counter-attack two minutes later saw Reece James clear the ball on the goal line, Michael Jacobs’ superb back-flick sent Jordan Flores away on the left and Gilbey saw his effort saved.
Robert Firmino had a snap-shot on the turn saved by Christian Walton, then just after the half-hour mark, Phillippe Coutinho shot a foot over from the edge of the box. A minute later Firmino stole in to intercept a back-pass from Dan Burn, then Lallana shot a yard wide from distance.
Latics then swept upfield through Bogle and he fizzed a dangerous ball across the box before the pendulum swung back to Liverpool, who poured forward, Firmino shooting wide when completely free in front of Walton.
Then on 37 minutes back came Latics, Jacobs was upended by Joel Matip when in full flow, Max Power blasting the resultant free-kick through the wall but Mignolet saved.
Walton then made probably his best save when diving to reach Lallana’s stooping header on 42 minutes, scrambling to reach the ball as Firmino was ready to pounce.
Liverpool were level on the stroke of half-time when Salah found himself clear after Firmno had initially driven out of midfield, Coutinho squared it back and the Egyptian couldn’t miss.
There were four changes from Cook at the break, including debuts for Gavin Massey and Sam Stubbs, along with a first DW Stadium appearance for Josh Laurent. For their part, Liverpool changed their entire team at half-time and Divock Origi saw an early effort trickle along the goalline.
There were two more early changes, in the 57th minute. Luke Burke, Callum Lang for his first team debut and a welcome return for Kaiyne Woolery in a Latics shirt after his Wembley heroics at Forest Green Rovers. Paul Cook then changed the rest of the team, in the 60th and 61st minute, bringing on Terell Thomas, Luke Burgess, Chris Merrie and Owen Evans for their first games for the club – giving the side an extremely youthful look.
Evans was almost caught when a Burke backpass bounced over his head, but he reacted well to gather the ball with Origi threatening. He then had to save well from Daniel Sturridge in the 69th minute from an effort outside the box.
There was a heart in mouth moment at the other end a minute later when Lang was pulled down outside the box. Merrie swung in a curling effort which Loris Karius spilled at the feet of Burgess but the German keeper recovered quickly.
Dejan Lovren headed powerfully after 75 minutes, rising to meet James Milner’s cross from the right, but it went narrowly wide as Evans scrambled to reach it.
Perkins was now the only Latics player over the age of 24 on the field, and given the stature of the opposition, were making a real game of it, although there was a let-off in the 97th minute when Sturridge found himself clear but shot wide of Evans’ right side upright. The young Welshman then had to be very agile in parrying an effort from Milner late on.
Walton (Evans, 61), Byrne N (Burke, 57), Burn (Thomas, 60), Morgan (Stubbs 46), James (Perkins, 46), Colclough (Massey, 46), Power (Merrie, 61, Flores (Laurent 46), Gilbey (Woolery 57), Jacobs (Burgess, 35), Bogle (Lang 57).
Subs not used: Gregory, Barrigan.
First Half: Mignolet, Trent-Arnold, Matip, Klavan, Flanagan, Woodburn, Wijnaldum, Firmino, Lallana, Coutinho, Salah.
Second Half: Karius, Gomez, Lovren, Milner, Grujic, Chrivella, Henderson, Stewart, Solanke, Sturridge, Origi