Liverpool: Mrozek; Wilson, Chamber, Jonas, Koumetio; Stephenson, Corness, Balagizi; Musialowski, Woltman, Gordon
A sloppy opening to the second-half threatened to unhinge a dominant first as Liverpool eventually ran out worthy 4-1 winners against closely placed Wolves. Following Saturday’s FA Youth Cup heroics against Mancester United, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s men go in to the season run-in with growing momentum.
James Balagizi was as important as the focal point in attack as he was in the first line of defence, the 17 year old showed why he is so highly revered in the academy. Max Woltman and Kaide Gordon picked up a brace each as Liverpool flexed their attacking talent who unsurprisingly meshed well – and could have killed the game off early.
This was the first opportunity for fans to see Kaide Gordon in action following his January move from Derby County. Coming with a big reputation, fans were excited to see him combine with fellow attackers with a penchant of their own in Musialowski and Balagizi.
A cocktail of attacking talent that shimmered in the Kirkby sunshine.
At risk of looking leggy following Saturday’s lung-busting efforts, Liverpool were rather buoyed by the result and sprang in to the game grabbing the bull by the horns in the process.
The opening exchanges were led by Luca Stephenson, perhaps encouraged by his own personal landmark after leading Liverpool on to the field as captain for the first time. Early exchanges saw him drop deep to progress play with tenacity and urgency, and put Liverpool on the front foot.
Stephenson nearly finished off Liverpool’s first chance of the game, after Max Woltman’s well timed press gave him time to play in Stephenson who was making a late run in to the box before skewing his finish. Late runs in to the box and beyond the last man are notable characteristics Liverpool midfielder’s have excelled in of late in the academy.
Balagizi quickly took the reigns and relished in responsibility. Picking up pockets of space centrally, just awry of the attacking third, without being an out-and-out central midfielder helped him link up with Woltman and co going forward. An attacking cog that also sprung into free flowing transitions, often used as the out ball, with sheer his size and body manipulation making him hard to shrug off the ball.
Liverpool would continue to probe with Balagizi at the heart of play. Gordon and Musialowski dropped deep and rotated positions in an attempt befuddle the opposition, managing to garner several promising situations that worked well. Gordon in particular, showing excellent vision.
Gordon combined with right back, Wilson, on the right, with Wilson twice able to find Woltman with incisive crosses. Get him on the plane Gareth.
The first, Woltman could only snatch at a volley 10 yards out rather than gain any sweet contact, while the second produced a wonder save from Wolves ‘keeper Arinbjornsson who clawed away Woltmans bundled attempt. He could’ve gone in at half time with a hat-trick.
But a single notch would have to do as Woltman was not to be disheartened.
Dom Corness aggressively pressed the Wolves backline, forcing a bouncing ball in to the path of Woltman, who volleyed home, much more convincingly from the edge of the area.
Liverpool continued to circulate the ball, with Wolves creating little in the process thus heading in to the half-time dressing room with a 1 goal cushion.
A solitary goal kept Wolves within touching distance.
The Wolves midfield kept a much tighter bank in the second half, with wingbacks high and blocking the space that Wilson had enjoyed the half previous.
Liverpool appeared rattled, with a number of uncharacteristic cheaply given away balls in dangerous areas inviting Wolves pressure. Liverpool shrunk with the likes of Gordon initially isolated out wide, and Wolves in the ascendency. Lee Harkins proved to be a constant menace looking to regularly run off the shoulder of left back, chambers, combining well with striker, Farmer.
Wolves found more success in wide areas. The first chance of the half falling to Farmer who’s headed shot was too tame to cause Mrozek any issues who subsequently plucking it from the air.
A warning sign with growing pressure. And Liverpool finally had come undone, to the credit of Wolves who worked the ball well.
Harkins picked up the ball on the right and arched a pass in the path of farmer beyond the last line, who finished with aplomb in to the top corner.
A much needed wake-up call for Liverpool, who would be desperate for first half work not to go to waste. Looking to get a foothold back in to the game, the remnants of Balagizi’s first half performance continued to shine.
A mini-route ensued. A mini, Balagizi centred, route.
The ever industrious Woltman’s run in behind allowed Liverpool to alleviate pressures he held up the ball. As Wolves fell in to shape, Balagizi picked the ball up on the edge of the box, shimmied away from him man and located Kaide Gordon on the right of the box. A swift cut back on to his right followed by a hard and low early shot was enough.
Kaide Gordon scored his first Liverpool goal and had restored the lead in the process.
In similar fashion to the first goal of the day, Wolves would succumb to the high press. Balagizi was desperate to make sure Liverpool took 3 points. Again, a battling duel with Wolves’ centre-back saw Balagizi the victor, who squared the ball to Woltman who finished in to an empty net.
Liverpool regained control with Gordon full of life. Musialowski had a more frustrating afternoon, perhaps guilty of holding on to the ball for too long while subject to some rough treatment from Wolves.
A high ball, there to contest, saw Gordon pluck the ball from the air caressed by his laces resulting in the engaging Wolves player on the floor. The Subsequent drive in to the box saw a dubious penalty given as Gordon fell to the floor a seemingly impressive slide tackle.
Gordon slotted home coolly. Two come along at once. Gordon’s Liverpool account well and truly open.
In summary, Liverpool were well worth 3 points as they look to carry their momentum in to the latter stage of the season with the potential of silverware.
JAMES BALAGIZI: Plays beyond his years. Seems to have nailed the concept of decision making where others have not and can play sensibly. Intelligently finding space supplemented by his barnstorming forward drives meant that he was the biggest thorn in Wolves side today.
SEAN WILSON: A constant threat down the right and played in a number of sumptuous balls in to the box that could have seen him take home a number of assist. Locked the Wolves flank down well with good body shape, strong in his tackles and rarely beaten.
LEE JONAS: Returning from injury, Jonas showed superb poise to ensure Liverpool’s sloppiness was not capitalised on during a tricky period for the reds. Swept up well in the first half to ensure Liverpool sustained long period of dominance.