AcademyU18s match report: Reds beaten by Derby in eventful encounter
Liverpool fell to a 5-2 defeat against Derby County in an eventful U18 Premier League North clash on Tuesday night.
Lewis Koumas’ high press had led to the forward providing the young Reds with a third-minute lead, but Cameron Ashia got the home team back on terms with a penalty.
Liverpool’s Jayden Danns saw a spot-kick of his own saved and then Lennon Wheeldon’s clinical finish on the stroke of half-time put Derby ahead.
Wheeldon went on to complete a hat-trick during the second half and Ashia also netted again, meaning a James McConnell penalty that might have led to a comeback was only a consolation.
Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s team made an enterprising start to the match and smartly executed closing down deep into Derby territory created a very early breakthrough.
Koumas’ jump from inside the left channel forced a defensive error and the ball spooled to Elijah Gift inside the box. The latter unselfishly served it back to the former, who rolled a low finish beyond the goalkeeper.
It might have been a short-lived lead for the visitors after a remarkable goalmouth scramble ensued at the other end of the pitch just moments later.
From a Derby attack down their right-hand side, a delivery into the area caused pinball. Ashia saw a pair of close-range strikes bravely blocked by red shirts and then Farren Simons side-footed over the crossbar from the ‘D’.
The hosts were on the front foot in the aftermath, though Gift turned them around in the 20th minute with a swift dribble off the flank that ended with him prodding wide of the near post. A similar escape in behind by the No.7 was next halted by a firm Bayo Fapetu tackle.
Derby had a goal chalked off when a curling free-kick fell the way of Callum Moore and he converted from an offside position, but they levelled for real just shy of the 30-minute mark.
Springing a counter-attack, Ashia carried the ball more than half the length of the pitch and was finally brought down in the area by Josh Davidson – and stepped up himself to slot home the penalty.
McConnell was denied by Derby ’keeper Jack Thompson immediately after the restart having chased down a long pass, before Davidson delivered a vital goalline clearance when Simons aimed a lob over the out-of-goal Luke Hewitson.
The Reds had a chance to lead again as Gift was felled by Luke Banks in the box and the referee pointed to the spot, but Danns’ side-footed strike to his right was held by Thompson.
And in stoppage time the Rams compounded that disappointment and got ahead; Billy Gough made ground along the left and fired in a cross that Wheeldon dispatched emphatically.
Play remained open in the early stages of the second half and there was a goal at each end during a frantic three-minute spell before the hour mark, including the evening’s third penalty.
First, Cruz Allen turned over possession in the Liverpool half, attacked the left edge of the box and sent an assist into the middle for Wheeldon to nudge past Hewitson from yards out.
But the Reds were able to reduce that deficit instantly as the referee called an infringement on the always-dangerous Gift in the area. Up stepped McConnell to lash into the net from 12 yards for 3-2.
The attacking impetus continued in both directions as time ebbed away and Keyrol Figueroa threatened a grandstand conclusion for the away side late on.
Embarking on a dribble from the right channel, the substitute’s pace and footwork took him all the way to a shooting position – but his sweeping effort was too close to the ’keeper.
And in the final moments, Derby extinguished Liverpool’s hopes as Wheeldon beat the outcoming Hewitson to a set-piece into the box and flicked home a header and Ashia then thrashed in their fifth from a loose ball.
Liverpool U18s: Hewitson, Davidson, Gyimah (Onanuga, 37), Pinnington, Samuels, Miles, Gift, McConnell, Koumas, Kelly (Roberts, 85), Danns (Figueroa, 46).
Unused subs: Pitt, Trueman.