Wigan Athletic 1 Liverpool 1

Alex Gilbey's first-half goal was enough to secure a highly-creditable 1-1 draw for Wigan Athletic in their glamour friendly against a full-strength Liverpool squad.

Friday, 14th July 2017, 11:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:45 am
Liverpool's Dominic Solanke battles with Wigan's Gavin Massey during the pre-season friendly at the DW Stadium

Latics, under the watchful eye of new boss Paul Cook for the first time, took the lead midway through a very entertaining first half, during which both sides created a number of chances.

The visitors got back on level terms on the stroke of half-time when a mistake in the home defence was punished by Mohamed Salah’s clinical finish.

With both sides replacing all 11 starting players, the second half was never going to live up to the quality of the first.

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But it was still more than enough to send the home fans in the 12,715 crowd home happy with what the coming season might hold.

Liverpool had almost gone ahead inside the opening skirmishes, when fantastic skills from Georginio Wijnaldum split the home defence.

Firmino looked like he was through, but Latics goalkeeper Christian Walton - making his debut after arriving earlier this week from Brighton - was out in a flash before the striker could take aim.

At the other end, Latics were also showing some nice touches, with Omar Bogle taking advantage of time and space outside the box to curl a 30-yarder just past the far post.

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge is tackled during the pre-season friendly at the DW Stadium

Liverpool had another let-off moments later when Ryan Colclough’s cross found its way to Gilbey, who pulled his shot inches wide.

But the home side were rewarded just before the midway point in the half, and it was that man Gilbey who broke the deadlock.

After Max Power’s right-wing free-kick caused confusion, Dan Burn and Craig Morgan couldn’t make a decent connection, but Gilbey stepped up to slot home a crisp left-footer from 15 yards that Simon Mignolet didn’t see until it was too late.

Mignolet made amends shortly after when he reacted brilliantly to Bogle’s close-range effort, although the offside flag was up in any case.

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge is tackled during the pre-season friendly at the DW Stadium

With Latics continuing to hammer on the door, Liverpool regained the ascendancy with Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Salah looking particularly dangerous in open field.

A snapshot from Coutinho from 30 yards flew just over Walton’s fingertips and over the bar, before a free-kick from the same player found only the top corner of an advertising hoarding behind the goal rather than the net.

Liverpool created and then squandered a gilt-edged chance to equalise, when a scintillating one-touch break saw Salah and Lallana get the ball to Firmino, who was clean through, only to poke the ball miles wide of goal.

Firmino did much better in the next attack when he found Lallana with a pinpoint right-wing cross, only for the England midfielder’s diving header to force an even better save from Walton, diving to his right.

But the equaliser that probably had been coming eventually arrived on the stroke of half-time, and again it was the result of a sensational passing move that cut through the heart of the defence like a knife through butter.

Latics had only themselves to blame for initially giving the ball away deep inside their own half.

But they had no answer whatsoever as Firmino unselfishly elected to play in Salah, who couldn’t miss from 10 yards despite Walton’s best efforts.

Latics made four changes at the break, with Sam Stubbs, David Perkins, Gavin Massey and Josh Laurent taking over from Craig Morgan, Reece James, Jordan Flores and Colclough.

But confusion at the back almost gifted Liverpool a second goal within seconds of the restart, with substitute Daniel Sturridge sliding the ball across the line from a tight angle before it was hacked away to safety.

Three more changes followed for Latics as Nathan Byrne, Gilbey and Bogle were replaced by Luke Burke, Kaiyne Woolery and Callum Lang.

They were soon joined on the field by Owen Evans, Chris Merrie, Terell Thomas and Luke Burgess, for Walton, Dan Burn, Power and Michael Jacobs.

With both sides having used their full quota of subs, the remainder of the game inevitably failed to live up to the intensity of the first hour.

But the Latics fans at least got a tantalising glimpse of the future of the club, with all of the youngsters - especially lively striker Lang - showing some nice touches against quality opposition.

Liverpool almost sneaked a winner when Burke misjudged a back-header and Evans had to scramble back to make the save.

Evans then did even better to palm away a cross-shot from Sturridge, who wasted a golden opportunity with five minutes to go, blazing a clear shooting opportunity high and wide.

With 90 minutes on the clock, Latics hearts were again in mouths as James Milner bore down on goal, through the left channel.

But his curling right-foot effort was well saved by Evans, who deserved to keep his personal clean sheet.

Latics: Walton; Byrne, Morgan, Burn, James; Power, Flores; Colclough, Jacobs, Gilbey; Bogle.

Subs used: Evans, Perkins, Massey, Woolery, Thomas, Burke, Stubbs, Burgess, Merrie, Laurent, Lang.

Subs not used: Gregory, Barrigan.

Liverpool: Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Klavan, Flanagan; Wijnaldum, Lallana, Woodburn; Salah, Coutinho, Firmino.

Subs used: Karius, Lovren, Milner, Gomez, Henderson, Sturridge, Grujic, Origi, Solanke, Stewart, Chirivella.

Star Man: Alex Gilbey
Attendance: 12,715

Referee: Oliver Langford