In the end this was probably a fair result. City perhaps worked their keeper more, and arguably looked most likely to grab a late winner, but Liverpool posed a threat of their own too, rightly feeling aggrieved when they were denied a clear penalty as they broke midway through the second half. Overall, it wasn't the most exhilarating of games, yet it was understandably given the relatively untested lineup. Several regulars were absent which lead to a very young, and very inexperienced team. Most notably in defence - Demeacho Duhaney, Charlie Oliver, Tosin Adarabioyo and Cameron Humphreys were all elsewhere and Ash Kigbu only made the bench after a spell on the sidelines through injury. This meant a first start at this level for the fifteen year old Joel Latibeaudiere. He lined up alongside two 16 year olds. Joe Coveney made only his second start at this level at centre-back it was a first start of the season for the slight, whippet of a left-back, Lewis Blackshaw. Callum Bullock lined up alongside the three of them on the right.
Ahead of them there was even more missing. There was no Wood, Kongolo, Nmecha, Faour or Sancho, and Tom Dele-Bashiru and Will Patching only made the bench. This meant a u18s debut for the Spanish wonderkid Brahim Diaz, another that only turned sixteen two months ago. He lined up at the tip of a midfield three that also involved Sadou Diallo and Jacob Davenport. In the absence of Lukas Nmecha, Isaac Buckley carried on as the nominal number 9 and Dilrosun and Fernandes played out wide. And it was Fernandes that once again found himself on the scoresheet. After a relatively even opening, with both sides crafting a few half chances, Brahim in particular powering one effort right at the keeper after a lovely one-two with Dilrosun, it was another moment of individual brilliance from Paolo Fernandes that saw City break the deadlock. Sadou Diallo drove forward and put the young Spanish winger through down the right - he ran at the left-back, brilliantly sent him the wrong way with a drop of the shoulder and fired under the advancing keeper for his fourth goal of the season in seven starts.
|Brahim & Fernandes|
Liverpool equalised not long after. Brahim was guilty of overplaying only yards outside of his own area and he naively gave away a dangerous freekick, which Liverpool punished expertly. A dipping, bending 20 yard strike beat Albinson to the top corner to tie the game. There was chances for both as the game reached its final moments - late sub Will Patching brilliantly whipped in a cross from the left that Buckley just couldn't quite reach to turn in, and Dele-Bashiru drove straight at the keeper from just inside the area. Davenport, too, could have had a goal from a free-kick to his name if it hadn't been for a smart stop from Liverpool's keeper, tipping an effort just around the post with ten minutes left on the clock. It remained 1-1, and truth be told, it wasn't a bad result given Liverpool's current form. Individually, Fernandes impressed. He's in a real purple patch of form. A delightfully skilful little winger, he has an incredibly handy ability to go either way, with real pace too, and he's blessed with excellent technique. He caused Liverpool all manner of problems throughout and on another day his goal would have been a worthy match winner.
Dilrosun was a good, powerful presence down the left, running repeatedly at Liverpool. He was victim of a few crude challenges from Liverpool, one that went totally unpunished that should have resulted in a yellow card at very least. Davenport was once again a tidy, neat presence in midfield, getting forward well where he could and Diallo was decent, working through the gears well in a game that was mainly fought through the middle. It was a mixed debut for Brahim - some delightful moments, as ever - in particular one piece of skill that saw him break away from two defenders was inexplicably called back for a foul against Brahim, confusingly. He's clearly a talent, yet it will take a few games for him to settle into the team and really start to express himself. Interestingly, he seems to be physically growing. He's already an inch or two bigger than he was in preseason which will definitely help. Buckley worked the line well upfront though couldn't quite isolate his opposition marker enough to showcase his lightning feet and impeccable skill-set. Defensively we were pretty solid. There was some hairy moments, though that was to be expected given the extreme youthfulness of those involved, but in general they were encouraging performances.
|Liverpool's Melwood Training Ground|
The two young centre-backs, Latibeaudiere and Coveney, were both a little guilty of ball watching at times, but they were also often in the right place at the right time, and both showed great amounts of composure when given the ball. Blackshaw was good at left-back, shuttling forward when he could, likewise Bullock on the right. The two midfield subs, Patching and Dele-Bashiru certainly made an impact. City pushed forward with considerably more confidence when they came on and they were unlucky to not create a winner. Albinson in goal made some good saves after a relatively shaky opening with the ball at his feet, and Kigbu made a late appearance in defence. Given the age of this team, with two 15 year olds and numerous aged just 16 involved, this was no bad result against a very good side - especially considering three of them were making their first start at this level too. It's impressive that they adapted so seamlessly to the way Wilcox wants his teams to play at this level. You get the feeling a few more could step up from the u16s too and make the transition just as easily. It's a talented generation that Gareth Taylor coaches - one that picked up yet another win despite being denied the services of several regulars too. An u16s team with plenty of u15s involved beat a strong Liverpool lineup 5-1. Tyrese Campbell scored another two, Luke Bolton grabbed a brace and Henri Ogunby scored the other. Next up is the u19s on Tuesday as they face Sevilla in the UEFA Youth League.