Van Dijk and Gomez return from injury in Liverpool friendly defeat

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez made their long-awaited returns from injury on Thursday night as Liverpool were beaten in a friendly by Hertha Berlin.

The two centre-backs have been out for months with serious knee injuries and after long and gradual recovery periods they have both stepped back on to the field for the Reds.

The match finished 4-3 to the Germans in Innsbruck, and while the result will be an annoyance for manager Jurgen Klopp, he will be delighted to see the defenders moving closer to match fitness as they came off the bench in the second half.

Sadio Mane, Takumi Minamino and Alex Oclade-Chamberlain netted for the Premier League side.

The Liverpool starting XI saw Caoimhin Kelleher in goal behind a back four of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ibrahima Konate, Joel Matip and Kostas Tsimikas.

The midfield three was James Milner, Naby Keita and Harvey Elliott, with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Takumi Minamino in the front three.

With Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi not in the squad, Liverpool are very short of options in the middle of the front three, with Minamino taking that role.

Santiago Ascacíbar opened the scoring for the German side 21 minutes in, with Suat Serdar doubling their lead 10 minutes later and Liverpool looking like they were in for a tricky night.

However, the Reds quickly got themselves back into the game, with Mane scoring from a Tsimikas pull back five minutes later.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were level shortly before half time as Minamino rounded off an impressive move, slotting home Salah’s backheel.

Klopp made six changes at the break, with Adrian, Andy Robertson, Rhys Williams, Nat Phillips, Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replacing Kelleher, Tsimikas, Konate, Matip, Elliott and Minamino.

Less than 20 minutes into the second half and Klopp was making more changes, but not the ones that Liverpool fans were desperate to see, with Joe Gomex and Virgil van Dijk remaining on the bench.

On came Leighton Clarkson, Kaide Gordon, Tyler Morton, Neco Williams and Diogo Jota.

Shortly after those changes, former Manchester City striker Stevan Jovetic made an impact off the bench, putting Hertha back in front with a headed effort against the run of play.

The crowd then got what they wanted as Van Dijk and Gomez entered the fray, getting rapturous applause for their every touch of the ball.

The arrival of the fit-again centre-backs could not swing the result, though, with Jovetic scoring again to make it 4-2.

The 31-year-old arrived at the club only this week after leaving Monaco and is making an immediate impression.

While back on the pitch, it was clear neither man was up to speed, with Jovetic beating Van Dijk to score the fourth and Gomez booked shortly after coming on for a pull on a shirt.

Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a crisp volley late on to make the scoreline close, but it ended 4-3.

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