Preston 0 Liverpool 4
Liverpool’s new forward Iago Aspas marked his debut with a goal but he will have to score plenty more if Reds fans are to celebrate a new hero to replace wantaway striker Luis Suarez.
The Spaniard, signed from Celta Vigo for £7.7m, curled home his side’s final effort as they eased their way back into action to comfortably win the specially-commissioned Shankly Shield, in honour of Reds’ iconic manager and former Lilywhites player Bill Shankly at Deepdale.
In reality the game had already been settled with goals from Philippe Coutinho, Jordon Ibe and Raheem Sterling in little more than a gentle run-out, – even if temperatures on the pitch touched 30 degrees.
It provided no proper gauge for an assessment on the work manager Brendan Rodgers has done over the summer or his four new signings, who all featured.
Aside from one first-half save from Scott Laird’s shot, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had nothing to do, while centre-back Kolo Toure may have had a more testing afternoon had new Preston signing Kevin Davies been ready to play.
Rodgers’ two Spanish imports, Aspas and Luis Alberto, played the second half with Aspas’ 20-yard left-foot curler for Liverpool’s fourth in the 75th minute the highlight.
The elephant in the room – and not on the pitch – was Suarez, the Uruguay international currently on extended leave because of Confederations Cup duty who seemingly wants out of Anfield.
Rodgers did not speak to the media after the match, wanting to avoid an inquisition over the 26-year-old for whom the club have already turned down a £30m bid from Arsenal.
Fellow forward Daniel Sturridge was absent, still making his way back from an ankle injury, and while captain Steven Gerrard was fit after missing the last two matches of the season to have a shoulder operation, he watched from the sidelines.
Who will provide the goals without that trio remains to be seen, with Rodgers still looking to add attacking options after missing out on Shakhtar Donetsk’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Aspas showed he has the potential to contribute but while forward Fabio Borini, who missed plenty of last season with injuries, was a willing runner he spurned his one chance with only goalkeeper Declan Rudd to beat.
Coutinho, inventive in the opening 45 minutes, won and converted a spot-kick after a 13th-minute foul by John Welsh.
Ibe, 17, cut in from the left to drill a low right-foot shot just inside the post, Sterling raced on to Aspas’ pass to round replacement goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann before the new Spanish signing wrapped things up.