A Matuesz Musialowski brace was only upstaged by a second half Ethan Ennis hat-trick as Liverpool romped home to set up an FA Youth Cup spectacle against Manchester United.
Sutton United’s defensive embankment sufficed in the first half, only to burst in the second as Liverpool’s quality shone through, scoring five goals in quick succession. Sutton, however, having not played proper football since the back end of December and coming in to the game as resounding underdogs, can be proud of their performance.
It wouldn’t be to the surprise of many that Sutton had not conceded a goal in the tournament after seeing their first half defensive fortitude against Liverpool. Yet to be breached by sides much lesser, the Londoners made the Premier League 2 side graft. And Graft hard. As Liverpool probed with the ball side-to-side, back-to-front and all the way around Sutton’s two banks of four, it would take a wonder strike to turn the game on its head.
A minute on the clock and it looked like Sutton were in for a long night. The ever present James Balagizi quickly spun his man deep in opposition territory before his sweetly struck shot was tipped over the bar.
But Sutton quickly regrouped, maintained shape and showed a stubborn doggedness that undoubtedly frustrated both the players, and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson alike.
Cries of ‘Quicker’ could be heard from the touchline as Liverpool were fairly timid themselves without doing enough to disrupt the defensive shape of Sutton.
A lot of responsibility would lie on the shoulders of Balagizi, who was central to Liverpool’s forward play in the first half. The forward, who continues his good form since returning from injury, frequently linked up with Musialowski and Norris on the left. Luca Stephenson aided Liverpool’s ball circulation with some intelligent touches trying to run in behind Sutton’s midfield on occasion.
Musialowski’s slaloming dribbles were curtailed, and outside of a Max Woltman header and a sniff from Jarrel Quansah, Liverpool were blunted.
One could only admire the work of the Sutton backline. Up against it, Jordi Alilo snuffed out any danger, safeguarding the backline and sweeping up accordingly. Liverpool’s work down the right was made redundant with Sam Tutt strong in his duels while stopping and delaying his man well. Tutt would be aided well by Goncalo Freitas who dropped in to support and thus locking down the left. Rick Wellard and Marvin Williams had prepared well.
But it is hard to plan for a 25 yard Tyler Morton rifling effort.
As Morton picked a central pocket of space, no sooner had the ball left his laces, than he was wheeling away in celebration. A sweetly struck shot found the bottom right, as the midfielder continues what is turning out to be a breakthrough campaign for him. He’s magnificent.
The deadlock breached. Spaces would slowly start to present themselves. Balagizi continued to menace, with big chances falling to Musialowski who failed to capitalise.
Sutton would not have been disappointed. While attacking flurries were sparse, Sutton would go in at halftime still in the game with a solid foundation to work from. It was a half Williams and Wellard will look back on with fondness as they largely shut down the hatchet to some of the countries most talented footballers.
The second half was a treat. Liverpool’s talent frothed over.
Sutton started the second half with more attacking impetus. Tanner, a constant menace, found himself in space on the right, chopping back to his left before a Quansah proved equal to a shot that was deflected for a corner.
But Liverpool quickly regained control, with the sustained pressure for prolonged periods of time too much for Sutton to cope with as Matuesz Musialowski did nothing to dampen the hype that lit around him before the game.
Goal scorer, Morton, quickly turned provider as his cross from the left was met by ‘Matty’ arriving late in the box to double Liverpool’s lead. Persistent throughout the game, the goal would spring the young Pole into life who became stickier as the game went on. The ball would not leave his feet.
It took 3 minutes for Musialowski to strike again. A dribble, that is surely soon to be trademarked, ended with a shot that cannoned back to the feet of Musialowski who assertively dispatched home from inside the box giving Musialowski his second and Liverpool comfort.
With the weekends viral goal, you would be hard pressed finding someone who could upstage Matuesz Musialowski.
Enter the field, Ethan Ennis.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen an entrance like this from a young footballer.
Hunger radiates from tackles, runs and shots. He plays angry, but all for the better. As James Norris found space on the left, Ennis did the same in the box before the two combined with Ennis heading home a viciously impressive cross from the left back.
Next stop, the adjacent full back. Issac Mabaya fired in a low cross which was quickly converted by Ennis in quick time. He was quite clearly eager to get in on the action.
Finally, Ennis found space himself. A short run into the box saw Ennis fire hard and low in to the bottom right, sealing a hattrick from the bench, leaving Sutton players and perhaps even Marc Bridge-Wilkinson alike wondering why the coach had not started him. It was a real baptism of fire.
The game soon petered out, with the only other talking point coming in the form of a potential Lee Jonas injury. Jonas, who has only recently returned from injury, clashed with Kai Tanner, and was seen after the game wearing a protective brace. For a situation which is hopefully nothing serious, we wish him all the best.
Ultimately, Sutton arrived as underdogs and leave with their heads held high after what was undoubtedly a learning curve for the boys who played. There are certainly some good careers to be had in the Sutton side, with Rick Wellard and Marvin Williams showing their coaching prowess. Everybody involved in the club has conducted themselves brilliantly in the build up.
Next up for Liverpool; Manchester United.
Following the hype around Musialowski, I’ve decided to shine light on some others. We all know he’s ridiculous.
Jordi Alilo: The Sutton man’s first half performance was magnificent. Cleaning up loose balls behind his defensive partner and strong in the air, Alilo was a huge factor in Sutton’s first half organisation.
Ethan Ennis: He just about managed to show every facet of his game in his brief time on the pitch. Not just in scoring, but Ennis looked good with his footwork in tight spaces while drifting in to channels to work hard for the team. We also saw some of his blistering pace down the right at one point, which caught me by surprise. A baptism of fire tonight.
Sam Tutt: Captain, Tutt, was vocal throughout the game. He was as sound defensively as Alilo, while showing assuredness in his technical ability playing out of trouble in to the feet of his left winger. A confident lad, that will carry this performance in his stead going forward.
James Norris: A menace down the left. A constant menace. A right backs nightmare. While not everything came off for the young Englishman, he was persistent in his endeavour and played a role in breaking down a stubborn defence. Norris always makes himself available as an out ball, while never shying away from attacking responsibility. His cross for Ennis’ first was excellent.