U18s Exit Youth Cup as Liverpool Come From Behind
Wednesday, 12th May 2021 20:10
Town’s FA Youth Cup run came to an end at the semi-final stage as Liverpool came from behind to beat the Blues’ U18s 2-1 at Portman Road. Town deservedly went ahead in first-half injury time when Edwin Agbaje headed home, but the visitors were on top for most of the second half and were seen into the final via goals from Mateusz Musialowski and Melkamu Frauendorf.
After both sides and the officials had taken a knee in support of Black Lives Matter, the game got under way with the early stages evenly balanced.
In the third minute Liam Gibbs sent over a cross from the left but just too high for Gerard Buabo.
Liverpool, third in Premier League U18 North and unbeaten in their last 10 in all competitions, began to dominate possession and in the 15th minute Dom Corness struck a shot which Blues keeper Lewis Ridd stopped but was unable to hold on to, however, he was able to claim the rebound ahead of the lurking Max Woltman.
Three minutes later, James Balagizi brought the ball in from the left before hitting a shot which deflected over. Ridd confidently punched away the resultant corner.
In the 23rd minute, Musialowski struck a low effort which Ridd, starting having been an early sub for the injured Antoni Bort in the 3-2 after-extra-time victory over Sheffield United in the quarter-final, pushed past his post.
The Blues began to play more of the game in the Liverpool half, Gibbs seeing a shot blocked on the edge of the box.
Town’s first real chance of the game came in the 32nd minute. The Blues played a corner on the left back to be delivered into the box and a Liverpool defender was only able to clear it to Nico Valentine in space on the left of the box but the schoolboy scuffed his effort.
The home side continued to see most of the ball and on 37 Gibbs struck a shot from distance through to Harvey Davies in the Liverpool goal.
Three minutes later, Musialowski twisted and turned on the edge of the box before hitting a shot which Ridd saved down to his right.
But it was the Blues who would take the lead in injury time. Gibbs brought the ball to the byline on the right and crossed for Irish right-back Edwin Agbaje, whose header just crossed the line having struck the keeper and woodwork.
After rapturous celebrations in the corner by the tunnel, there wasn’t time for any further action before the break.
The Blues had been far from overawed by their more illustrious opponents and had more than held their own. Liverpool had had spells on top but so had the Town youngsters who had appeared to grow in confidence the longer the half progressed.
Even before the late goal, the Blues had had the best chance when Valentine was unable to connect cleanly, and they went in at the break well worth their lead.
Liverpool number nine Woltman missed a golden chance to level two minutes after the restart when sent through on goal. As Ridd advanced from his line, the striker blazed over.
On 49 the visitors threatened again, James Norris crossing for Conor Bradley who turned his first time effort into the back of the stand.
The Merseysiders had started the second half on the front foot and were seeing most of the ball, albeit without adding to their early chances, but in the 59th minute the Blues were close to making it 2-0.
Cameron Humphreys was sent away down the left by Alfie Cutbush and his cross fell for Valentine beyond the far post from where he shot not too far over.
Three minutes later, Cutbush was shown the game’s first yellow card for a foul on Musialowski midway inside the Town half. And from the resultant free-kick the visitors levelled.
Centre-half Elkan Baggott headed the initial free-kick but Liverpool skipper Jarell Quansah nodded down to Musialowski, who worked himself space on the edge of the box before hitting a shot which deflected past the wrong-footed Ridd and into the net. The Reds deserved the leveller on the balance of the half.
As they prepared to restart, Town swapped Cutbush for striker Ola Bello, scorer of a hat-trick in the early stages of the competition at Chelmsford.
Having got on terms, a Liverpool onslaught might have been expected but none came and the Blues began to see more of the ball and began to threaten.
On 78, Gibbs tricked his way on from the left and sent over a powerful low cross which deflected off Quansah and away for a throw.
The visitors swapped goalscorer Musialowski for Frauendorf in the 79th minute and two minutes after coming on, the sub put his side in front.
Woltman had been dispossessed inside the area by Baggott but the ball fell to the German, who turned inside the Indonesian U19 international and shot across Ridd, who got a hand to it but couldn’t prevent it from arcing inside the post.
Town switched Agbaje and Buabo for Jack Manly and Tawanda Chirewa in the 83rd minute as they looked to get back on terms.
However, Liverpool were starting to dominate and create chances. On 85 Woltman shot wide, then a minute later Frauendorf was thwarted by Ridd when through on goal.
Town continued to look for a late leveller, something they managed earlier in the competition against Fulham and then Sheffield United, but they were unable to trouble Davies in the Liverpool goal and referee Craig Hicks’s whistle confirmed the Reds’ progress into the final.
Despite the defeat and missing out on what would have been the club’s fourth appearance in the final, the young Blues can hold their heads up high not just for tonight’s performance, having matched Liverpool for long spells, but for the cup run and their season as a whole.
The youngsters’ season is still not over with a Professional Development League Two play-off semi-final at Wigan on Saturday.
U18s: Ridd, Agbaje (Manly 83), Alexander (c), Stewart, Baggott, Armin, Valentine, Cutbush (Bello 64), Buabo (Chirewa 83), Gibbs, Humphreys. Unused: Catley, Bradshaw, Nwabueze, Boatswan.
Liverpool: Davies, Bradley, Norris, Quansah (c), Koumetio, Stephenson, Corness, Morton, Woltman, Balagizi, Musialowski (Frauendorf 79). Unused: Mrozek, Jonas, Wilson, Chambers, Mabaya, Bajcetic. Referee: Craig Hicks.
Photo: Matchday Images
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