Captain Steven Gerrard, goalkeeper Jose Reina, striker Luis Suarez, first-choice defenders Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Welsh international midfield playmaker Joe Allen all remained behind on Merseyside.
And Brendan Rodgers' decision seemed it might backfire against a doughty Swiss side in a match with goal-scoring opportunities galore.
Liverpool, in their 100th UEFA Cup and Europa League match, went 1-0 up after just four minutes thanks to a most bizzare Juhani Ojala own goal.
A defensive header by Christoph Spycher rebounded off Ojala's own head into the net past hapless 'keeper Marco Wolfli.
But Raphael Nuzzolo pulled one back for Young Boys before Andre Wisdom made it 2-1 for Liverpool at the break.
The home side shot into the lead with goals from Ojala and, thanks to an excellent finish, Gonzalo Zarate in the 63rd minute.
But Sebastian Coates got one back to draw the Reds level, and impressive 20-year-old replacement Jonjo Shelvey bagged a brace to give the scoreline a slightly more healthy hue than it deserved.
Rodgers, whose team tackle Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday, said he always had faith in his young players.
"I don't see it as courageous or brave, I just trust in my players," he said.
"They are still coming to grips with how I want to play, we've got a long way to go. The most important characteristic is our fight.
"So perfect result, good performance, we'll reflect and learn from that also, which is important. It's great to get three points from the first game."
In Group G, FC Basel left Portugal with a point after a scoreless draw with Sporting Lisbon.