Brendan Rodgers’ first game as manager of Liverpool ended in a 1-1 draw against Toronto thanks to Adam Morgan’s equalizer for the English giants in a World Football Challenge friendly.
Quincy Amarikwa, acquired by Toronto from Major League Soccer rivals the New York Red Bulls early on Saturday, wasted no time contributing to his new team, seizing a rebound from a Peter Gulacsi save to give the hosts the lead in the 58th minute.
The advantage was short-lived, though, as Morgan knotted the score at 1-1 in the 69th minute, taking advantage of a fine run by Raheem Sterling and salvaging a draw for Liverpool in the opening match of their pre-season North American tour.
After Sterling eluded three defenders, Toronto goalkeeper Quillan Roberts managed to deflect his shot, but Morgan was there to tap it home.
Liverpool were further buoyed by the return to action of Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva, who has been sidelined since November last year with a serious knee injury.
Rodgers went with a mix of experience and youth to open the contest, with veterans including Jose Enrique and Jamie Carragher joined on the starting 11 by prospects such as Dani Pacheco and Nathan Eccleston.
Toronto manager Paul Mariner fielded close to a first-choice lineup, with the only change to the team that beat the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday coming in goal, where Freddy Hall replaced Milos Kocic.
Mariner’s side featured captain Torsten Frings in midfield, although leading scorer Danny Koevermans was absent after suffering a season-ending knee injury in a league fixture the previous Saturday — the reason for the Amarikwa acquisition.
Mariner was pleased with his team’s performance, but noted that Liverpool were not at full strength.
“You’ve got to temper your thoughts with where Liverpool are at, the squad that they brought over, but all you can do is your best and I thought we did well under the circumstances,” Mariner said. “Let’s not get carried away. If Liverpool brings their first squad and they’re further on in their pre-season or the season, they’re a top-class team, with top-class players.”
After a first half that featured few scoring opportunities, Rodgers made wholesale changes for the second, with Martin Skrtel and Joe Cole anchoring another group of young players.
In the 75th minute, Lucas was sent on to replace Krisztian Adorjan, his first appearance since suffering an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
The 33,087 fans on hand included plenty of Liverpool supporters, who chanted and sang songs.
Liverpool continue their pre-season tour on Wednesday at Fenway Park, home of Major League Baseball’s the Boston Red Sox, against Italian club AS Roma. They face English rivals Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday in Baltimore, Maryland.
VILLA DOUSE THE FIRE
AP, BRIDGEVIEW, Illinois
Gaby Agbonlahor scored in the 29th minute and then left with an injury in the second half as Aston Villa beat the Chicago Fire 1-0 in a friendly on Saturday.
Agbonlahor went down clutching his left leg after spinning by a defender in the 63rd minute, screaming in pain. A trainer gingerly flexed Agbonlahor’s leg, which caused more pain, and the forward was carted off.
Villa’s new manager Paul Lambert said Agbonlahor could be out for two weeks.
Villa came out attacking and the push paid off with Agbonlahor’s goal. He headed in a cross by defender Chris Herd from close range.