There will be bigger assignments in the coming weeks and months, not least the two games that will determine Liverpool’s Champions League ambitions.
But for Jordan Henderson, the 45 minutes he played at Prenton Park on Wednesday will perhaps be his most significant of 2017.
Having not kicked a ball in public since February 11, Liverpool’s captain was relieved and delighted to get back in the thick of things in his side’s opening pre-season fixture.
James Milner and Marko Grujic were on target for Liverpool in the first half at Prenton Park
Milner slots home from the penalty spot to give Liverpool a first half lead against Tranmere
Pedro Chirivella scores from close range to put the Reds further in control after the break
Teenager Ben Woodburn rounded off the scoring from the spot in the closing stages
It was always the plan for Henderson to just play the first half of this fixture – Jurgen Klopp selected two different sides for each 45 minutes – but, nonetheless, it was reassuring to see his confidence had not been affected by four months on the sideline because of a problem in his foot.
Liverpool didn’t need to get out of second gear to hammer their neighbours from across the water – the final score was 4-0 – but Henderson was determined to show his wellbeing and within the first 80 seconds he made three passes, bellowed at Lucas Leiva for not releasing the ball quick enough and fouled Tranmere forward Andy Cook.
There is still some way to go before Henderson reaches his peak condition but he worked relentlessly over the summer to ensure he returned to Melwood at a similar level of fitness to those who had finished last season without injury and he will look to make another step forward again when Liverpool face Wigan at the DW Stadium on Friday night before heading off to Hong Kong for the Premier League trophy.
Captain Jordan Henderson returned to the starting lineup for the first time since February
Roberto Firmino started as the Reds began their pre-season preparations on Wednesday
Dominic Solanke made his first appearance in a red shirt since joining from Chelsea
Tranmere: Davies (Pilling), Ridehalgh (Dunn), Duggan (Owusu), Sutton, McNulty, Buxton, Hughes, Norburn (Mangan), Harris (Rokka), Cook (Clarke), Norwood (Jennings)
Liverpool: Karius (Grabara), Alexander-Arnold (Clyne), Matip (Gomez), Lucas (Klavan), Milner (Flanagan), Henderson (Stewart), Wijnaldum (Chirivella), Grujic (Kent), Ojo (Markovic), Sturridge (Solanke), Firmino (Woodburn)
Goalscorers: Milner, Grujic, Chirivella, Woodburn
This game was nothing more than a training problem exercise against non-league opponents but Liverpool – who were without Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and new club record signing Mohamed Salah – did at least make significantly shorter work of Tranmere than they did in the corresponding fixture 12 months ago when only a goal from Danny Ings separated the sides.
Liverpool should have scored after 47 seconds when Sheyi Ojo skipper around Tranmere goalkeeper Scott Davies but the winger could not keep his balance and shot wide; they fluffed a similarly presentable opportunity in the seventh minute when Joel Matip thrashed a flick on from Lucas high over the bar following James Milner’s corner.
Soon enough, though, Liverpool found a way through. It came via the penalty spot in the 34th minute – Milner converted after Ojo had been flattened by a clumsy challenge from Davies – but once Klopp’s men took the lead, it was a question of how many they would get.
Jurgen Klopp and his backroom staff watch their side begin pre-season with victory
Daniel Sturridge gestures towards a team-mate during the clash with Tranmere
Number two arrived just before half-time when Marko Grujic – another Liverpool midfielder hoping to banish the memory of last season’s fitness struggles – beat Davies from 25 yards with a shot that bounced into the far corner of Tranmere’s net; it was, perhaps, a gift but it was one the Serbian was happy to receive.
The third came shortly after the restart when Dominic Solanke – making his first appearance since arriving from Chelsea – crashed a shot which Davies could not hold and Pedro Chirivella, the young Spanish midfielder, pounced to thrash in the rebound.
From that point, the game meandered towards its conclusion but there was still a chance for Liverpool to increase their lead, which they did when Ben Woodburn rapped home a penalty after his run towards goal had been clumsily halted.
A satisfactory evening, then, and one which also had the pleasing footnote of Jon Flanagan getting 45 minutes.
The defender has endured a miserable couple of years with injury and a loan move to Burnley that never worked out but he is determined to work his way back into Klopp’s plans. He will be determined to use this fixture as a foundation.
Young winger Sheyi Ojo gets a shot off on goal but is denied by the sprawling goalkeeper