Liverpool Under-23s strolled to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Manchester United in their final game of the Premier League 2 Division 1 season.
The young Reds dominated for the majority against the Red Devils at the LFC Academy and took an early lead through Shola Shoretire’s own goal. Alejandro Garnacho would equalise for United, but it would be a rare opening for the visitors as goals either side of the break from Rhys Williams and Jack Bearne clinched the win.
Liverpool were in control for most of the first half and took an early lead inside the opening five minutes following great pressing from Layton Stewart. As Shoretire passed the ball back to the under-presser Vitek, the goalkeeper missed his kick and looked back in horror to see the ball roll under his foot and in the back of the net, in off the post.
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Vitek was understandably nervy as a result as the young Reds continued to put him under pressure, but they were ultimately unable to test him further despite their early dominance. Captain Tom Clayton did see one effort blocked before Stewart did brilliantly to turn and beat Paul McShane, only to see his cross evade Bearne in the box.
United equalised against the run of play midway through the half as Garnacho got in behind the Liverpool defence to beat the offside trap, running onto D’Mani Mellor’s through-ball before beating Marcelo Pitaluga with an exquisite lobbed effort.
Yet the Reds fought back and could have restored their head soon after as Tyler Morton saw a first-time curling effort from the edge of the box fly just wide, before later winning a penalty as Martin Svidersky flung himself at the midfielder’s shot in the box, blocking it with his arm when on the floor.
However, Liverpool were unable to take advantage of the spot-kick as Vitek made amends for his earlier error, diving correctly to the goalkeeper’s right to tip away a powerful spot-kick from Leighton Clarkson.
Having seen a Stewart long-range effort deflected behind moments later, Clarkson was able to make amends himself minutes later as his corner found Williams at the far post, with the defender beating McShane in the air to restore the Reds’ lead with a smart, downward header.
Liverpool looked to extend their advantage before the break but to no avail as Owen Beck saw an effort blocked after combining with James Norris, before Conor Bradley sliced a volley wide from Clayton’s cross.
The Reds lost Billy Koumetio to injury shortly after the break but it didn’t disrupt their groove, with replacement James Blagizi unfortunate not to extend his side’s lead minutes after coming on. Following a great run down the right from Bradley, the Northern ireland international picked out the England youth international unmarked at the far post, but his downward header bounced over the crossbar.
Liverpool would net their third soon after though, as Morton picked out an unmarked Bearne in the box with a pinpoint through-ball, with the midfielder taking a touch before firing across goal into the bottom corner, with Vitek unable to do anything to stop it.
Stewart continued his comeback from an ACL injury as he completed 76 minutes on only his third appearance since his return, with Fidel O’Rourke replacing him following a hard-working performance.
In truth there were little opportunities in the final third of the match, however, Liverpool were given a couple of scares in stoppage-time as Marcelo Pitaluga was forced to save with his feet to deny an unmarked Noam Emeran before Mateo Meijda had an effort chalked off for offside.
But the Reds were able to see out the game against their fierce-rivals with relative ease as they won the their final league game of the season in what was the perfect preparation for their midweek Lancashire Cup final appearance against Burnley.
Liverpool U23s team: Pitaluga; Bradley, Williams, Koumetio (Balagizi, 56), Beck; Morton, Clarkson, Clayton; Bearne, Stewart (O’Rourke, 76), Norris.
Unused subs: Kelly, Wilson.