Match reportU18s: Liverpool 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Oakley Cannonier's 27th goal of the season and a second-half winner from Lee Jonas saw Liverpool U18s clinch a 2-1 league victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
In a well-contested game at the Academy, driving rain made things difficult in the opening 45 minutes but the Reds took command in the second period and could have won by a greater margin.
The first-half goals from both teams owed much to mistakes in defence, for all that they were clinically dispatched.
It was Liverpool who offered the first goal threat on 11 minutes. Melkamu Frauendorf played a clever pass to Isaac Mabaya and his right-footed effort was only parried by goalkeeper James Storer. Cannonier was there in a flash but turned the rebound just wide.
Wolves responded within a minute and really should have taken the lead. A good pass put Tyler Roberts clean in on goal but Harvey Davies stuck out a fine hand to deny his hit.
The first of the defensive errors came on 16 minutes and it gave the Reds an advantage.
A centre-back got under a clearing header and Cannonier snuck in behind to take a perfect first touch and finish off the inside of the post in typically nonchalant fashion.
But the visitors soon restored parity as Mabaya lost the ball on the edge of his own box, allowing Wolves striker Nathan Fraser to fire a low drive past Davies and into the corner with 24 minutes gone.
Liverpool were enjoying the better of the possession and working hard off it. That almost paid dividends just after the half-hour mark; Bobby Clark pounced on a defender trying to play out in his own box. The 17-year-old appeared to pinch the ball before being brought down inside the area – but the referee waved play on.
With 10 minutes left in the half, the Reds almost turned defence into a perfect attack.
James McConnell won a great tackle inside the Wolves half that allowed Clark to bear down on goal, but Storer was out well to save when the Liverpool youngster could possibly have squared to teammates for a tap-in.
The rain eased in the second period and it allowed the hosts to take a greater grip on the contest.
Callum Scanlon was causing problems down the left side and offering some good deliveries into the box, while Wolves were struggling to escape from the high press.
That pressing from Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s side created a good chance on 52 minutes, the Reds winning the ball high, but Frauendorf’s curling effort was pushed away by Storer.
Wolves almost repeated their first goal a few minutes later, again Mabaya hounded off the ball and Fraser striking at goal. This time, however, it was straight at Davies, who made a regulation save.
The winner arrived on the hour mark and owed much to a good piece of refereeing.
A Liverpool corner led to Luke Chambers sending a high, hanging ball into the box. Storer spilled it under pressure and Jonas turned it home, with the referee ruling the goalkeeper had been impeded by reaching over his own player rather than suffering a foul.
The Reds had control now and created some fine chances without stretching their lead.
Clark played in Cannonier, whose goalbound shot was blocked by a defender in the last action for the striker before being replaced by Iwan Roberts.
Substitute Roberts almost made an immediate impact with 20 minutes left, just unable to reach a great ball across goal from Clark after fine work from Scanlon.
Fil Mabete and Kam Kandola almost sliced clearances into their own net for the visitors as Liverpool cranked up the pressure, and McConnell was denied by Storer after a poor pass from defence found only Clark.
A lovely give-and-go between Mabaya and Frauendorf created an opportunity for Roberts, though once more Storer saved well, before the ’keeper clawed away a McConnell cross that looked destined for the top corner.
With a third goal not materialising for the Reds, there was always the chance of a sucker-punch and it almost came in injury time.
A corner from the Wolves left was met by Roberts but his powerful header was straight at Davies, who held it well to maintain a well-deserved win for Bridge-Wilkinson’s team.
Liverpool U18s: Davies, Miles, Scanlon, Jonas, Chambers, Mabaya, McConnell, Pilling, Frauendorf, Clark, Cannonier (Roberts, 66).
Unused substitutes: Hewitson, Lucky, Davidson, Figueroa.