The ruler is back

The 11,000 fans inside the Tivoli Stadion were made to wait well over an hour.

But with 68 minutes on the clock, they were treated to the biggest moment of Liverpool's pre-season so far.

The huge cheer that greeted Virgil van Dijk about 15 minutes before kick-off in Austria suggested the No.4 was in line for an almighty introduction when his number was finally called on Thursday evening.

And so it proved as he joined the fray alongside his good friend, Joe Gomez, to a huge ovation from the supporters in attendance.

Every pass from the pair was subsequently greeted with big cheers before a trademark Van Dijk searcher from right to left drew arguably the most audible response on an entertaining night.

The Netherlands captain will be disappointed to let two-goal Stevan Jovetic escape him in a one-on-one for Hertha's fourth, but the ring rust is inevitable after such a long lay-off with a serious injury.

With no competitive action under his belt since October of last year - 285 days, to be exact - Van Dijk is still unlikely to start this season against Norwich on August 14.

Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip are the ones winning that particular race at present.

In truth, it might not be until after the September international break when we see Van Dijk really allowed to go through the gears on Anfield's open road.

Wherever he stands at present on that long road to recovery, though, Liverpool fans will just be delighted to see him back on the pitch. Ditto for Gomez.

Bigger nights await both this coming season, but few over the next 10 months of their respective careers will be relished as much as this one was.


Another creditable hour in the bank for Naby Keita has them all daring to dream. Again.

As the Guinea international approaches his fourth season as a Liverpool player, the attacking midfielder's impressive summer continues.

There he goes, gathering momentum and support along the way; is this finally the year he takes flight?

It's a question that is asked every year around this same time.

The ability has never been in question where the Reds' No.8 is concerned.

That is the very least of his concerns, so it should come as no surprise to see him oozing class as he goes through the relatively subdued warm-up games in Austria looking every bit like a £52million midfielder should.

One lovely dummy left his tracker for dead out on the left-hand side moments after a trademark step-over had bought him some extra time on the ball in the heat of midfield battle.

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But on top of the obvious, eye-catching bits of skill, Keita was relentless in his pressing high up the pitch too.

One interception was perfectly timed before a delicious through ball laid on Mohamed Salah to set up Takumi Minamino to make it 2-2.

Keita later combined with the Egyptian in the second half as Klopp gave him an hour to strut his stuff and offer another reminder of his quality.

Not seen competitively since being hauled off at Real Madrid back in April, Keita will have earned another chance by the end of the pre-season schedule next month.

The time for him to stop decorating games and start dominating them has come, though.

It's now or never.

New No.9s still awaiting lift off

The search for the Roberto Firmino understudy is proving inconclusive.

Klopp's attempts to find a new striker from within his squad has so far been one of the most difficult challenges of the pre-season.

Both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Minamino were tried here and they will be able to at least count themselves as part of a lengthy scoresheet on a wholesome night of pre-season action.

First, Minamino took his only real chance with minimal fuss after Salah's gorgeous back-heel had put it on a plate.

Oxlade-Chamberlain also grabbed his first goal of pre-season with a well-taken volley from about 12 yards as the Reds pushed to get themselves back in the game at 4-2 down late on.

But neither will be able to say they have laid down a personal marker to deputise adequately for Roberto Firmino.

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That Divock Origi, who was left out as a precaution, is probably still ahead of both in that role speaks volumes about the issue Liverpool currently have down the middle of their attack.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, as gamely as he tries, will concede that he is a centre-midfielder before he is a striker.

In truth, he is probably a winger before he is a No.9 too and Klopp's experiment seems to be yielding little in the way of results on that front so far.

Minamino continues to look nimble, neat and tidy, but on the periphery of games, even if one clever twist and cross deserved better movement from Sadio Mane in the first half.

With Xherdan Shaqiri's future likely to be away from the club, another attacking option is becoming imperative.

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