Another week, another update on the action in the academy. This week, sadly, the U-19s crashed out of Europe with a 2-0 loss to Juventus, and both the U-18s and U-23s played to draws against Derby County and Manchester City. Without further adieu, onto the matches.
Juventus (U-19) 2 Liverpool (U-19) 0
The Red’s dream of a semi-final appearance in the UEFA Youth League came to an end at the hands of Juventus in Turin. The young Reds were coming off a penalty shoot-out win over Genk a fortnight ago.
The first half started off with the host exerting pressure, which cumulated an attempt on goal. In the 3rd minute, Matias Soule latched onto a pass off the end line, drove inside, and shot into Fabian Mrozek who slapped the ball out of play. The Reds absorbed the early pressure and created a chance of their own in the 15th minute when Isaac Mabaya struck the side netting.
Midway through the first half, Mrozek had to be withdrawn due to injury and was replaced by debutant Luke Hewitson. Hewitson was immediately tested, and performed well, saving a Soule free-kick. Juventus continued to dominate the first half, having the lion’s share of the ball, and forcing Hewitson into a save upon the stroke of halftime. But, the tie would remain scoreless going into halftime.
The second half started with a more resurgent Red side, who nearly created the opening goal as Oakley Cannonier had a shot blocked. But, it was all for not. The Juventus side was not going to be denied and took the match by the nape of the neck. In the 66th minute, it was Soule again, who with a brilliant backheel, rolled the ball to Fabio Miretti. Miretti fired an unstoppable low drive, beating Hewitson, and opening the score. Three minutes later, Juventus would double their lead. Miritti sent a right side pass into Gabriele Mulazzi, who drove into the center of the box, and with a close-range side pass, set up Ange Josuè Chibozo. Chibozo struck the ball to the right of Hewitson into the back of the net and finished off The Reds European campaign.
Derby County (U-18) 1 Liverpool (U-18) 1
The Reds traveled to the midlands looking to avenge an early home loss to the Rams. The Reds dominated the first half, and were nearly a goal up inside the opening minutes, as Harvey Blair latched on to a great through ball from Lee Jonas, but could only hit the side netting. The reds continued their control of the match, forcing defensive saves from both Blair, Oakley Cannonier, and tip over of a goal-bound, looping header from Jonas off a Luca Stephenson corner. But it was the Rams that would strike first. In the 30th minute, Olamide Ibrahim took advantage of a momentary lapse from Terence Miles, dispossessed him, ran unmarked, and drove the ball through the legs of Luke Hewitson. Both sides had opportunities to score, but the match went into the half with Derby County on top.
The second half started with both Blair and Cannonier having good attempts saved prior to the Derby County nearly doubling their lead. Miles was caught out and bullied off the ball. The ball would eventually make its way to Ibraham, who unluckily hit the crossbar with a curling shot. The Reds would eventually equalize.
In the 68th minute, Blair was making an attacking turn towards the Derby goal but was dragged down, setting up a free-kick. After a moment to sort out the lines, Stephenson stepped up to take the free-kick outside the box. Stephenson perfectly placed the header into the path of Cannonier who headed in for his 21st league goal to level the score. Cannonier nearly put the Reds ahead on two occasions, the closest on an unmarked header that drifted just wide.
Manchester City (U-23) 0 Liverpool (U-23) 0
Both the Reds and Manchester City had a hard-fought match that ultimately earned them both a point. The most notable player throughout the match was GK Oscar Kelly, making his debut in the Premier League 2. He took full advantage by keeping the table-topping City side at bay. The Reds had a few opportunities to break the stalemate, as did City. The Reds had an opportunity to steal the points late through a Dominic Corness effort. But, the match ended goalless.
The academy’s next run of matches is scheduled for the first weekend in April, with the U-18s facing Nottingham Forest, and the U-23s facing Chelsea, so there will be no match coverage next week. However, I will take that opportunity to dive into the future prospects in the academy by positions, and what a bright future we have ahead of us!
Until next time, Up the Reds!