Match reportLiverpool U21s claim 3-2 win at Blackburn Rovers
Liverpool U21s produced an impressive performance to defeat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 at the Lancashire FA County Ground on Saturday afternoon.
The scoreline flattered the hosts with Barry Lewtas’ side well on top for most of the contest, although a defensive error saw them having to see out the end of the game with just a one-goal lead.
First-half goals from Rhys Williams and James Norris had given the young Reds a narrow 2-1 advantage at the break, one which was stretched by Layton Stewart early in the second half.
Ethan Walker’s finish, though, set up a tight conclusion but Liverpool deservedly collected the three points in the Premier League 2 clash.
Williams started at centre-back alongside Oludare Olufunwa and the defender almost gave the visitors the lead within two minutes of kick-off.
Owen Beck whipped in a corner with his left foot and Williams was all alone in front of goal but his downward header was eventually bundled away to safety.
The young Reds were well on top in the early exchanges, crisp passing and solid pressing keeping Rovers pinned in their half for most of the play and looking only to hit on the break.
Finding a way through was proving difficult, however, with Blackburn defending in numbers.
Liverpool had a decent penalty shout on 25 minutes when Melkamu Frauendorf appeared to be upended in the box after good work from Beck and Max Woltman on the left, but the referee waved play on.
A minute later they did deservedly take the lead.
Beck and Williams reprised their corner routine and this time the latter made no mistake as his header easily beat Thomas Kaminski in the Blackburn goal.
Having worked hard to establish a lead, it was disappointing that the young Reds could only hang on to it for five minutes.
Again a set-piece did the damage, Olufunwa getting under a straight free-kick and allowing Zak Gilsenan to collect goal side and calmly stroke past Harvey Davies.
It was the Liverpool goalkeeper himself who started the move that would re-establish the visitors’ advantage just two minutes before the break.
Under pressure, he calmly found a superb pass into Norris in plenty of space in midfield.
He quickly moved forward and, after good work from Lee Jonas and Frauendorf on the right, he was there to fire home the cross to make it 2-1 at the break.
The County Ground at Leyland is a happy hunting ground for Norris, the Scouser having scored the winner in the final of the Lancashire FA Senior Cup on the same pitch last season.
Liverpool looked to have made the game safe on 57 minutes as they stretched their lead to two goals.
Hard work in the press paid dividends again as Stewart fired a low strike past Kaminski after Norris and Woltman did well on the left. It was a fourth successive game with a goal for Stewart since his return from injury last month.
The hosts weren’t giving up, however, and it needed a goalline clearance by Williams with an outstretched leg to stop them reducing the deficit 10 minutes later through Walker.
There was a great sight for all Liverpool fans as Tom Hill returned from long-term injury off the bench with 15 minutes left and within a minute the young Reds almost had a fourth, Stewart’s clever effort tipped just wide of the post by Kaminski.
The visitors looked to be seeing the game out easily but gave Blackburn a route back into the game with a defensive error on 80 minutes.
A clearance from goalkeeper Davies was too low and the ball found its way to Walker, who finished confidently to set up a nervous last 10 minutes.
Liverpool had strong claims for a penalty for handball straight away but again the referee gave nothing, while the closest Blackburn got to an equaliser was a cross that landed on Davies’ bar with three minutes left.
Liverpool U21s: Davies, Jonas, Williams, Olufunwa, Beck, Stephenson, Norris, Clark (Corness, 82), Frauendorf (Miles, 90), Woltman (Hill, 74), Stewart (Musialowski, 90).
Unused sub: Kelly.