Football: Liverpool down Hertha as Coutinho gets captain's armband

Klopp (right) shakes hand with Berlin's Alexander Esswein after the pre-season friendly.
Klopp (right) shakes hand with Berlin's Alexander Esswein after the pre-season friendly. PHOTO: EPA

BERLIN (AFP) - Jurgen Klopp enjoyed a perfect return to Germany on Saturday (July 29), as Liverpool beat Hertha Berlin 3-0 in a pre-season friendly with summer signings Dominic Solanke and Mohamed Salah both on the scoresheet.

The game also saw Philippe Coutinho, who has been heavily linked with a US$93 million (S$126 million) move to Barcelona, handed the captain's armband, and the Liverpool fans gave the Brazilian playmaker a rousing reception.

"We are not quite where we want to be, but that is normal in pre-season," said Klopp after the game.

"We were good today. In the second half, we had control of the game. We had to fight, but we weren't so good tactically."

Klopp also hailed Coutinho who played a key role in Liverpool's third goal, scored by Salah, with a fine lofted pass.

"Coutinho and Salah are two top level players, and we are extremely happy to have them," said Klopp.

Over 50,000 fans descended on Berlin's Olympiastadion to welcome Klopp and Liverpool, many of them filtering in from a fan festival which had taken place in the stadium grounds during the afternoon.

The imposing arena brought mixed fortunes for Klopp during his time in the Bundesliga.

In 2012, it was the scene of his greatest triumph, as Borussia Dortmund won the German Cup final to complete a domestic double.

Three years later, he lost the same fixture to Wolfsburg in a painful final game in charge of Dortmund.

Klopp, though, was all smiles upon his return to Berlin this weekend, even sharing an embrace with Hertha's mascot ahead of the game.

The pre-season friendly, arranged to celebrate the 125th anniversary of both clubs, took place at the end of a week of festivities across the German capital for Hertha.

Yet, the visit of Klopp and Liverpool was always set to be the highlight of the celebrations, with the Berliner Kurier newspaper describing it as "the biggest season dress rehearsal ever".

"I wish Hertha good health and full stadiums for their 125th birthday," said Klopp.

Former Dundee United man Andy Robertson made his Liverpool debut, and there was a place in the starting XI for 19-year-old Solanke, who joined from Chelsea during the summer.

Klopp's opposite number Pal Dardai, who captained Hertha the last time these two teams met in 2009, tested two of his summer signings in Mathew Leckie and Karim Rekik.

Liverpool opened the scoring on 15 minutes, as Solanke rose to meet an Adam Lallana cross, sending a looping header over Rune Jarstein.

Solanke was involved again as Liverpool doubled their lead before half time.

The youngster dispossessed Fabian Lustenberger deep in the Hertha half, beginning the move which saw Georginio Wijnaldum score Liverpool's second.

Salah made it 3-0 just after the hour mark, picking up a chipped through ball from Coutinho and lobbing Jarstein.

The party atmosphere endured nonetheless. As Liverpool calmly played out the last few minutes of the game, both sets of fans broke into a rousing chorus of You'll Never Walk Alone.

Klopp's pre-season return to Germany continues on Tuesday, when Liverpool take on Bayern Munich in the Audi Cup.