St Gallen 0, Liverpool 0

By Tony Barrett on Jul 15, 09 11:21 PM in Journalists

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WHEN you have spent an evening in the company of Roger Federer you can't help but realise how the combination of natural talent and hard work can lead to success.

After rubbing shoulders with the reigning Wimbledon champion, Liverpool began their quest to follow the Swiss master on the path to sporting glory in his homeland.

The work rate was certainly there as the Anfield outfit kicked off their preparations for the new season with a goalless draw against St Gallen but with the ring rust of summer still to be fully shaken off it is likely to be some time before they are as sharp as Federer.


As has become the norm in Rafa Benitez's reign, the Liverpool manager used an early pre-season game to blood some of the club's most promising youngsters while also giving some of his fringe players a chance to press their claims for a more regular involvement in the first team squad.

With the first meaningful action of the new season still a month away the Spaniard is much more concerned with increasing fitness and match sharpness right now than he is with results and performance.

To this end, the meeting with St Gallen was never likely to be anything more than a pipe opener, particularly with Liverpool's Spanish quintet, Javier Mascherano and Andrea Dossena yet to even join up with their Anfield team mates following their extended summer break.

And with Benitez keen to give run outs to as many members of his squad as possible then the chances of Liverpool's first pre-season friendly turning into any kind of spectacle were about as remote as the manager exchanging Christmas cards with want away midfielder Xabi Alonso in five months time.

The one-year-old AFG Arena played host to a full house with the St Gallen locals eager to see their newly promoted side in action and a fair smattering of travelling Liverpool fans helping to create a lively atmosphere which was not in keeping with the predictably dour fayre that was being served up in front of them.

Not surprisingly, Liverpool's mix of first team regulars, reserves, fringe players, youngsters and virtual outcasts was never really able to deliver much in the way of a cohesive playing pattern.

Equally inevitable was the fact that Steven Gerrard's star shone brightest as the Liverpool captain's crisp passing and imaginative movement marked him out as the first half's most accomplished performer, with Jay Spearing also impressing in a more understated fashion as the skipper's midfield sidekick.

With his pre-season preparations due to be interrupted by a trial of an entirely different kind next week, Gerrard was clearly keen to make the most of his playing time and he certainly did that against the Swiss outfit.

New signing Glen Johnson was eager to please for entirely different reasons.

Having become the most expensive defender in Liverpool's history last month the England man knows he has a lot to prove if he is to live up to the £16m fee that Benitez shelled out on him.

Having operated mainly in an unfamiliar left back berth during the early stages of pre-season training, Johnson was tasked with carry out the same role in the second 45 minutes of last night's game and did well enough despite his positional change.

The former Pompey man was one of 11 Liverpool substitutions at half-time as Benitez carried out his pledge to change his entire team at the interval.

Having seen his first half team struggle to carve out any openings of particular note apart from a close range Krisztian Nemeth effort that was easily foiled by St Gallen keeper Reto Bolli, the Liverpool manager will have been pleased to see his substitute eleven look to push forward at every opportunity.

Johnson could and perhaps should have opened the scoring following a neat one two with David Ngog but disappointment at the way his volley was steered wide of the target will have been tempered by the fact that the full back had illustrated his trademark ability to get into advanced positions.

Yossi Benayoun was next to try his luck following some inventive build up play involving Stephen Darby and Dani Pacheco but the Israeli's goal bound effort was tipped over by Bolli.

As the half wore on, the home fans demanded more from their team - who started their Swiss league campaign last week - but with Liverpool increasingly dominating possession it seemed that their thirst to take the notable scalp of the five time European champions would go unquenched.

St Gallen continued to try and hit their visitors on the break only for their efforts to be continually thwarted by the two Martins - Skrtel and Kelly - with the more junior member of Liverpool's central defensive duo making the most of his promotion from the reserves with an assured and commanding display.

Kelly's fellow second string regulars Pacheco and Ngog both had opportunities to put themselves in the limelight but the former was let down by a lack of poise when a clear shooting opportunity arose and the latter suffered from a radar malfunction when presented with the most free of headers.

Such profligacy could have proven costly had the unmarked Mario Frick not headed wide with just minutes remaining but the concession of a late goal would have been harsh on Liverpool who had shown more than enough endeavour and spirit to deserve a draw at the very least.

ST GALLEN: Bolli, de Souza, Schenkel, Nushi, Vitor, Caceres, Frei, Zellweger, Koubsky, Costanzo, Merenda.

ST GALLEN (second half): Bolli, Oehri, Lang, Jagne, Frick, Graf, Ciccone, Hammerli, Abegglen, Martic, Frrokaj.

LIVERPOOL: Cavalieri, Degen, Carragher, San Jose, Insua, El Zhar, Spearing, Gerrard, Babel, Voronin, Nemeth.

LIVERPOOL (second half): Martin (Gulacsi, 80), Darby, Skrtel, Kelly (Ayala, 80), Johnson, Kuyt, Plessis, Lucas, Benayoun, Pacheco, Ngog.

REFEREE: Cyril Zimmermann.

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