Preston North End 0 Liverpool 2: Dave Seddon's verdict on PNE running Jurgen Klopp's side close at Deepdale
The obvious question to ask after this game was if Preston North End were better against Liverpool than they had been at Blackpool last weekend?
They were better, considerably better in fact as they matched their Premier League visitors for much of the contest.
The next question was why the big difference between Saturday afternoon and Wednesday night?
How did they get up for this one under the Deepdale floodlights so soon after the no show on the Fylde coast?
Such had been the backlash from Blackpool, there was always going to be some kind of reaction.
The team-sheet said a lot too, the side which took to the field against Liverpool much changed from five days earlier.
There were nine new starters, eight of Saturday’s team moving to bench duty and a ninth suspended.
Andrew Hughes and Sepp van den Berg were the two to survive the rotation.
Van den Berg was always going to start, once North End had been given the green light by Liverpool to feature.
You wonder if he swapped shirts with himself at the final whistle, after all he had a foot in both camps.
It was the same outcome and scoreline against the Reds as it had been when the Tangerines were in opposition.
That is where the similarities ended, the account PNE gave of themselves more than creditable this time. They dropped off to allow Liverpool possession and then counter-attacked when the chance presented itself.
Such a tactic was to present them with three clear opportunities to score in the first half, had they gone in at the interval leading, no one in red could have complained.
We can only guess how the game would have panned out had one of those chances hit the back of the net.
Instead it was a case of what might have been as it stayed 0-0 at the interval and Liverpool went on to score twice in the last half hour.
Takumi Minamino used his shin to steer home the opener in the 61st minute, Divock Origi’s casual scorpion kick delivering the second five minutes from time.
The big question now for Frankie McAvoy is how many of the side which took on Jurgen Klopp’s men stay in to play Luton this weekend?
Ali McCann must, with his return to midfield after injury a big stand-out on the night.
Ryan Ledson was very good next to him, Tom Barkhuizen impressive too up front before being subbed a touch too early for many people’s liking.
McAvoy must be tempted too in keeping Van den Berg in the centre of defence.
The Dutchman wanted to impress against his parent club, being allowed the chance to do so quite a rarity.
He moved one slot inside from the wing-back role he’d occupied since Easter, playing on the right-hand side of the back three with Liam Lindsay and Hughes for company.
Liverpool sent a largely second string up the A59 to Deepdale, those players who in the main are on the bench for Premier League and Champions League games.
Sprinkled in among them were some promising younger lads, while there were a couple of big names on the bench for Klopp to turn to should things not be going the top-flight club’s way.
Things didn’t go the visitors’ way in the first 45 minutes as PNE stuck to a plan and made it work well.
They won the ball deep in their own half, with runners quickly setting off to receive passes behind the Liverpool defence and down the sides.
Brad Potts got clear from a fine Sean Maguire pass, his scooped shot helped over the bar by keeper Adrian.
McCann found room down the right of the box to cross low and find Maguire seven yards out in front of goal.
Adrian dived to push out his shot, the rebound struck goalwards by Ledson only for Neco Williams to block on the line.
It was a cross just past the hour from the impressive Williams which Minamino met at the near post and steered across Declan Rudd to make it 1-0.
After Kostas Tsimikas’ centre had drifted against the bar, Williams knocked it back into the middle for Origi - facing the goal - to flick it over his shoulder into the net for the second goal in the 85th minute.
North End had run a little out of steam by then, the first Liverpool goal disrupting their rhythm.
They had freshened things up with five substitutions but it was certainly the starting XI which served them better than the side which finished the game.
It needed one of those first-half chances to have been buried for this game to have gone PNE's way, alas the quarter finals of this competition once again proving out of reach.
A step in the right direction then after Blackpool, a bigger step needed against Luton on Saturday when three points are at stake.
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