Match reportU18s lose seven-goal thriller against Middlesbrough
There was near-relentless drama as Liverpool U18s were beaten 4-3 by Middlesbrough at a rainswept Academy on Saturday afternoon.
Oakley Cannonier’s 11th and 12th league strikes of 2021-22 handed the young Reds a lead twice in Kirkby, but Boro responded on each occasion through Calum Kavanagh and then Sonny Finch.
The away side enjoyed the better chances in the second half and Kavanagh put them ahead with his second of the day on 70 minutes – but Melkamu Frauendorf nodded in an equaliser in the closing stages.
Middlesbrough came again, however, and Kavanagh threaded a low shot under Harvey Davies with four seconds remaining of normal time to take all three points, with Cannonier seeing a 96th-minute penalty saved.
Before kick-off at the Academy both sides paused to pay their respects ahead of Remembrance Day with a minute’s applause in the centre-circle.
When the action began it was the visiting side making more of the initial running, though Liverpool created the first genuine shooting opportunity on 10 minutes.
Frauendorf’s neat footwork as he moved in from the right edge of the area opened up space to launch a blast at goal that was pushed up and away by the palms of Henry Popple.
Foreshadowing how much of the contest would play out, Boro threatened an opener themselves within a matter of seconds.
Kavanagh embarked on a sprint from inside his own half, going past three Reds opponents along the way, and sent in a low shot towards the left corner that had to be tipped wide by Davies.
The game was still just 17 minutes old when Cannonier put Liverpool ahead.
Frauendorf scampered clear along the left flank and unselfishly squared to Luca Stephenson as Popple inched out of goal. Stephenson’s attempt was blocked by a defender on the goalline but fell sweetly for Cannonier to tuck home one of his easier finishes of the season.
Celebrations were short-lived, however; Kavanagh and Finch completed a slick one-two at pace that allowed the former to break into the box and guide the ball into the right side of the net.
The hosts then lost Stephenson to an apparent hamstring injury, the midfielder replaced by Michael Laffey on the half-hour mark.
Finch rasped an angled strike too high for the visitors, before Cannonier doubled his tally for the afternoon after an excellent Reds move in the fifth minute of added time.
Tommy Pilling’s precise, long knock from his own half turned defence into attack, Frauendorf’s perfect control and rolled pass into the middle created the chance, and Cannonier sealed it clinically.
Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s Reds would have hoped to build on their new advantage when play resumed, but it was Boro who turned the screw during the second period.
Finch should probably have brought them level two minutes after the restart, having broken clear along the left into a one-on-one with Davies, only to sweep his shot wide of the far post.
The forward did net with 54 on the clock, though, his low hit on the turn squeezing through the fingers and legs of a disappointed Davies as he tried to collect.
Liverpool rallied and Cannonier might have put them ahead a third time – and clinched a hat-trick – with a chance inside the box that was crucially deflected off target.
And, instead, Middlesbrough gained the fifth of the encounter. Fenton John’s forward pass invited Kavanagh to run through and he slid a confident shot past Davies having dribbled past two recovering Reds.
The hosts refused to give up and they levelled in the 83rd minute when a deep corner from the left was nodded down and Frauendorf reacted brilliantly to guide a rising header into the roof of the net.
Frauendorf could have won it for Bridge-Wilkinson’s charges as his close-range effort was swarmed by Popple, which allowed Boro to counter and go 4-3 ahead through Kavanagh, the striker wrapping up a hat-trick with another calm conversion from inside the area.
Liverpool laid siege to opposition territory in the search for another equaliser and after Bobby Clark’s firm drive was beaten away by Popple, Yacou Traore was judged to have brought down Josh Davidson in the box.
Cannonier stepped up to take the kick – the last of the game – and saw his penalty clawed away by the diving Popple to confirm victory for Middlesbrough.
Liverpool U18s: Davies, Davidson, Chambers, Lucky, Miles, Stephenson (Laffey, 30 (Figueroa, 90)), Frauendorf, Bajcetic, Cannonier, Pilling (Scanlon, 69), Clark.
Unused substitute: Mrozek.