Gomez ready for a fight

How quickly fortunes can change.

This time last week, Joe Gomez was arguably regarded as third in the Liverpool centre-back pecking order after some encouraging cameos from the bench.

One hugely impressive Ibrahima Konate performance at Old Trafford later forced a hasty rethink, the Frenchman remaining on the bench here with Gomez instead thrust into the starting line-up alongside Joel Matip.

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And his first half, like so many of his team-mates, was worryingly unconvincing.

The England international appeared slow and uncertain, not least when dispossessed by Tom Barkhuizen to prompt a passage of play from which Preston are probably still wondering how they didn’t score.

But Gomez, to his credit, refused to buckle. And partnered in the second half by Nat Phillips – making his first appearance of the campaign – the 24-year-old was much improved in a more dominant, assured and confident showing.

It’s easy to forget that, like Virgil van Dijk, Gomez is still finding full fitness and form after a serious knee injury.

Unlike the Dutchman, however, he isn’t getting as many minutes to regain his sharpness, lengthening his period until full recovery.

Certainly, there will be more to come. After all, Gomez has shown throughout his Liverpool he won’t shirk from the fight for a first-team place.

Williams offers Klopp poser

It doesn’t take too great a leap of imagination to picture Liverpool having gone into the season without Adrian or Neco Williams.

Instead, the Reds were ultimately grateful here for the duo having made clear their intention to stick around at Anfield.

Williams was making only his second start in almost 10 months, his opportunities limited by the importance of Trent Alexander-Arnold and, earlier this campaign, an untimely injury.

Rustiness was evident in his defensive work at right-back first half, but it was only when, shortly before the hour, he was pushed forward to a flank role – where he made an instant impact in brief run-outs at Watford and Atletico Madrid – that the Wales international became an influence.

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Indeed, it was his persistence that ultimately paved the way for both Liverpool goals, claiming one assist and another of sorts, his nose for an opening in the box crucial.

There are few more thankless tasks at Liverpool than being understudy to Alexander-Arnold, but Williams - still only 20, don't forget - can take self-belief from his performance in the final half-hour that perhaps suggests his eventual position may be further upfield.

Food for thought for Klopp, perhaps.

Adrian, meanwhile, was making only his second outing in 12 months with Caoimhin Kelleher, the regular deputy to Alisson Becker, unavailable through illness.

And the Spaniard’s solid display and fine first-half saves were key to an eighth clean sheet in 14 games for Liverpool this campaign.

Blair surprise just the start

Jurgen Klopp has never been reluctant to give youngsters an opportunity during his Liverpool tenure.

But even seasoned Academy observers would have raised an eyebrow at the sight of Harvey Blair in the starting line-up here.

With two goals in his last three competitive outings for the under-18s, and a 45-minute run-out at Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Youth League, the 18-year-old has started to deliver on the promise shown during a previous campaign which was decimated by injury.

It was still a surprise, though, to see the winger fasttracked to the senior side without an U23s appearance under his belt, benefiting from the absence of Kaide Gordon through injury and other young absentees.

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Pep Lijnders, the Liverpool assistant manager, had pointed out before the game youngsters will never let the club down.

Instead, while there was a flash of early promise with a neat turn inside the area, it was Blair who was failed by the lack of support given by floundering team-mates before being replaced before the hour.

Regardless, this was a great experience for the youngster, the first step in what he will hope is a successful senior career.