Liverpool U18s arrived at the Aon Complex, covered the width and breadth of the pitch, played slick, incisive football and left with three points, five goals and a clean-sheet.
While Manchester United were not helped by the need to blood-in a number of arrivals, a number of injuries and a COVID ravaged squad, it would not deter from the astute professionalism with sprinklings of panache of a buoyant Liverpool side. The intentions were clear; Mateusz Musialowski dropped back into the U18 squad after an U23 debut last week, while Marcelo Pitaluga also dropped down an age group after making his U23 debut last season. An already talented squad, buffed.
Oakley Cannonier’s hat-trick would be supplemented by efforts from captain, Luca Stephenson and stand-in right-back, Terrence Miles.
AS IT HAPPENED
The zip in Liverpool’s play aided by the wet surface, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s men started on the front-foot. Initial possession would only be probing, however the tenacity of Luca Stephenson and James Balagizi and the efforts of wingers Blair and Frauendorf meant that Manchester United were quickly penned in their own half.
The first effort of the game would be marked by Frauendorf, who skewed his shot wide from the edge of the box before the German quickly squandered a more meaningful second after firing a laced effort straight at United ‘keeper, Vitek, with time in the box. The correspending corner, would again, end in the arms of Vitek after Bajcetic volleyed straight at the Czech.
If it felt like Liverpool were turning the screw, Oakley Cannonier would quickly smash it off.
Miles picked up a second-ball wide right, before spinning a cross in towards the front-post that was met in perfect conjunction with Cannonier’s expertly timed run and side-foot finish. Only the slightest touches would be needed to steer the ball beyond Vitek. Advantage Merseyside.
Contrary to the score-line, Manchester United were in the game. Talent evident, but lacking in impetus.
A reply almost instantaneous; a gorgeous ball lofted into the box by Logan Pye, could only be steered into Marcelo Pitaluga’s hands by the head of Norkett who did well to find space between Bajcetic and Jonas. As Liverpool attempted to wrestle back momentum, Garnacho raced with the ball down the pitch all the way into the box from a Liverpool corner, only to be tailed by Luke Chambers who managed to ease the winger off the ball.
As United crept into the game, a rifling Luca Stephenson strike simultaneously rattled the Carrington net and deflated any Mancunian momentum. Regularly stationed on the edge of the box to tie up loose ends from corners, Stephenson this time hit the ball hard and low from twenty yards through a sea of players, as a flailing Vitek could only claw it into his own net. Breathing space.
Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United.
James McConnell replaced Harvey Blair on the stroke of half-time. Blair’s willingness to penetrate behind the United fullback aided Liverpool’s sustained pressure.
The half largely mirrored the first, with Liverpool more potent in possession. Musialowski found space on the right-hand-side before firing straight at Vitek quickly before Jurado would slice high and wide towards the Liverpool net.
With Liverpool circulating the ball from side-to-side, winger to winger and hoping to combine in the channels with Balagizi and Stephenson taking responsibility in possession, Liverpool would quickly capitalise.
Stephenson found the feet of Balagizi on the edge of the box, his favoured area of the pitch, who quickly showed the awareness to nudge the ball into the box for Oakley Cannonier, who’s blindside run into United area, in behind the defensive line left him with a close range finish.
It would not be Cannonier’s easiest.
Liverpool’s desire was accentuated in the vigour of the press deep into the second half. Balagizi, picked the ball up from a United mishap in the box. The angle too awkward for Balagizi, a touch to Frauendorf was quickly moved onto Cannonier, who essentially had to finish into an open net for his hat-trick from inside the six-yard box.
Liverpool quickly rounded up proceedings, as game stood to a standstill after Balagizi danced his way through the United box, tip-toeing past defenders, before forcing to Vitek into an impressive parry. The loose ball was subsequently met by Miles in the right-hand-side of the box, who arrowed home.
A fantastic start to Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s men in the Premier League North, who are already picking up momentum.
XI: PITALUGA; CHAMBERS, JONAS, BAJCETIC, MILES; STEPHENSON (C), BALAGIZI; FRAUENDORF, BLAIR, MUSIALOWSKI; CANNONIER
SUBS: DAVIES, DAVIDSON, MCCONNELL, ROBERTS
MAN OF THE MATCH
OAKLEY CANNONIER: A hat-trick that had the combined distance of roughly 10 yards from goal. Indicative of Cannonier’s smart positioning and pin-point timing of his runs. It does not feel like he is always involved in the game, which is almost preferred as to not draw overt attention to his efficient, sneaky finishing style that is supplemented by pace in abundance. Always on the move. Confidence showing.