Liverpool U18s taped off their Premier League North campaign in fitting fashion: Several goals in a barnstorming high energy attacking display. A performance emblematic of the highest scorers in the league.
To heighten the impressiveness, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson had made eleven changes from the FA Youth Cup tie the previous Friday.
A glut of players that are U16 regulars were filtered throughout the squad to give a well earned rest to regulars who are hoping for cup glory. A fantastic opportunity to give Marc Bridge-Wilkinson food for thought heading into next season.
A Scouser is imperative in any Liverpool side. Thus it was pleasing to see Tommy Pilling drafted into the line up with Hayes-Green amongst the substitutes bench adding to the Merseyside contingent.
Isaac Mabaya, James McConnell and Terrence Miles were tasked with controlling the middle of the park; all players who are eligible for U16 football.
The defence was made of three 16 year olds with Sean Wilson considered the senior man at eighteen with Jonas, Bajcetic and Chambers forming the rest of the backline. Kaide Gordon, 16, and Melkamu Frauendorf, 17, flanked striker, Pilling. Calum Scanlon, 16, a Summer recruit also made the bench.
It was an exciting window into the future.
Kaide Gordon’s spectacular arching dribble would add to Frauendorf’s inadvertent deflection from Pilling’s shot meaning Liverpool went in with a two goal cushion at halftime. Frauendorf would round up proceedings and come home with a brace, after poking home Gordon’s cross.
‘Our identity is intensity’ Said Pepijn Lijnders.
It is siphoning down well.
Liverpool gained a stronghold in the game from the first whistle with McConnell and Mabaya first and firm and every duel. The bite added by McConnell and Mabaya’s forward drives through the midfield line caught the eye in the first half.
The only blemish to an otherwise solid match report was the decision for McConnell in Centre-midfield to wear the number nine shirt.
Kaide Gordon was clearly buoyed by the opportunity to play his former side as he popped up in the opposition half like a whack-a-mole. And derby just could not contain him. Gordon tentatively threatened, daring to take his man on one-on-one without hesitation, picking up a number of promising positions without creating a clear cut opportunity.
Gordon smashed a freekick into the wall before Pilling’s tight angle effort was blocked by Jinkinson.
Liverpool made a breakthrough in style.
Isaac Mabaya picked the ball up deep in his own half, flinging a curling ball in behind the Derby left back that left Gordon in acres of space. Still with a significant amount of work to do, Gordon arched his dribble towards goal with careful control as he left two men in his wake dribbling across the box. Crowded by players, Gordon showed the composure to eventually finish beyond the keeper.
Liverpool 1-0 Derby
Liverpool remained in control and circulated the ball well. Pilling was instrumental in possession as he would drop in to link and progress the ball while working hard to stunt any Derby attacks. Stefan Bajcetic almost looked too relaxed, but dealt with any loose balls calmly with an impressive reading of the game.
Derby fought back, and ought to have scored in what would be a rare first half opportunity. Brailsford’s dangerous cross found the head of on-loan Chelsea winger Mothersille who ought to have done better with his header from 6 yards out with Mozrek comfortably tipping over.
Liverpool were at risk of undoing their own impressive hard work when Lee Jonas cheaply gave the ball away on the edge of his box forcing a well timed block, determined not to be at fault. A lucky escape.
Melkamu Frauendorf looked almost embarrassed to double Liverpool’s lead.
Pilling picked up a poorly cleared Gordon cross on the edge of the box before firing through a congested crowd towards goal. Melkamu Frauendorf kept his head down without saying a word when the Derby players called for offside after the ball had deflected in off of the German.
They all count.
Liverpool went in at halftime good value for their lead after thoroughly outclassing Derby all over the pitch.
Kaide Gordon looked in the mood with Isaac Mabaya a man of the half.
It was when Kaide Gordon left three men in his wake with a number of close touches on the right-hand-side advancing on goal that one could be convinced it was not going to be a game of two halves. Unfortunately, Chambers could only hit the side netting for what would have been a memorable goal.
Soon after Gordon turned provider.
A deliciously whipped in ball from the right that met Frauendorf’s run meant that he would only have to toe it past the onrushing Derby goalkeeper. Any hope of a second half retrieval from Derby was swiftly punctured.
Calum Scanlon soon came on to make his debut at U18 level for Liverpool.
Calum Scanlon was soon flattened after his first meaningful touch in a Liverpool shirt.
Not to be deterred, the left-back brushed himself off and remained positive in play often opting to drive inside with the ball making space for Frauendorf on the left.
The frantic intensity had soon fashioned into a more controlled phase of play from Liverpool who had looked relatively comfortable throughout the evening.
Bajcetic found himself high and wide on the left before arrowing a cross to the centre of the box that Pilling could only glance wide. Some good work from Isaac Mabaya on the right as he drove past his man for the umpteenth time, saw McConnell send an impressive acrobatic effort loop towards goal and force Roberts into a save.
Liverpool are certainly the league entertainers.
Not to discredit Derby but Liverpool’s downfall seemed to be of their own doing with lapses in concentration inviting several opportunities. Kelly found himself with the entirety of the goal to aim at as he took advantage of a chasm of space left at the back by Liverpool only to direct his shot directly at Mrozek.
Before the final whistle Hayes-Green would take to the field for his Liverpool U18 debut.
The game would ebb out and Liverpool were deserved winners.
While the personnel was different, the style, the tenacity and the identity remained the same and while that is the case, by and large, so will the results.
A result that bodes extremely well for next season.
KAIDE GORDON: Often harsh to quash the hype, there is no denying this was Gordon’s best performance in a Liverpool shirt. He seemed more inclined than ever to face up his man one-on-one before leaving him seemingly frozen in time. Positive going inside and out, Gordon was a nightmare for the Derby defence. And also the attack. Often we see players of Gordon’s ilk shirk defensive duty, but in fairness that could never be accused of Gordon. An all round impressive display with frequent praise from Marc Bridge-Wilkinson.
MABAYA AND MCCONELL: Lumped in together as to be able to give credit to others the two worked in tandem magnificently. Mabaya in full flight carrying the ball is as elegant as it is unstoppable, putting in a fantastic two-way performance. McConnell was similar, providing the bite to midfield keeping the ball ticking over so that Liverpool can maintain both control and intensity.
STEFAN BAJCETIC: So far the January arrival had only played in midfield for rotation and while fine in his performances, it is todays performance that highlights why the club made an effort to secure his transfer. Relaxed and unfazed Bajcetic was expressive in his distibution and not afraid to carry the ball forwards. Today, he read the game incredibly well for such a young age.
TOMMY PILLING: Woltman and Stewart are both strikers that drop deep and work tirelessly hard to make life as uncomfortable as possible for the opposition. Pilling adds himself to that list today. While not everything came off the local lad, the talent is evident. Boasting an impressive range of passing Pilling was a good asset when dropping deep and putting in the hard yards for his wingers.