Liverpool scraped through to the next round of the Carabao Cup at Anfield last night after knocking Derby County out during a penalty shoot-out and Jurgen Klopp will surely be relieved that his team managed to take the positive result in the end.
The current trophy holders were held to a stalemate with the League One visitors on Wednesday evening, however, with Caoimhin Kelleher offering the safest of hands in goal Liverpool inevitably progressed to the next stage of the domestic competition.
Despite having a whopping 74% possession, 19 shots on goal, three big chances and far more accurate passes completed (86% v 64%), the Reds struggled to break down the Rams throughout the clash.
Klopp made 11 changes with an entirely fresh starting XI from the team that beat Tottenham Hotspur last weekend and handed five full senior debuts to some of the hottest youth prospects in the Merseysiders’ academy.
Layton Stewart, Melkamu Frauendorf, Bobby Clark, Calvin Ramsay and Stefan Bajcetic all started in the first team for the first time, with Ben Doak coming off the bench to make an appearance too in the 74th minute, giving the German coach a good look at some of the rising stars the academy has to offer.
However, it wasn’t just youngsters who were given the opportunity to prove their worth with many fringe senior players also making rare appearances in the starting line-up like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nathaniel Phillips.
Although Liverpool struggled to take the game by the scruff of the neck, there was one player who worked tirelessly throughout the clash to set an example to his younger peers alongside him on the pitch.
Joe Gomez was another of Klopp’s heroes on the night, seemingly relishing his duties as captain, a role he took very seriously when applying himself on the pitch, something that will surely please the Liverpool boss.
The 25-year-old centre-back, who has previously been described as a “monster” by Jack Sear, was certainly that on Wednesday evening.
Indeed, his influence was seen in a whopping 120 touches and 100 accurate passes of the ball.
The centre-back was keen to progress play from the back, delivering 18 long balls throughout his confident and dominant display, as well as winning six out of ten defensive duels, completing two clearances and making one tackle.
Incredibly solid, this was a much better performance from a player who cost Liverpool in the defeat to Leeds, playing a blind pass back to Rodrigo who found the net.
With that being said, Gomez’s performance will have proved to Klopp that the player is keen to fight for a regular spot in the Liverpool backline over the season ahead and he is clearly a member of the squad the manager can rely on.