Match reportU21s defeat Dinamo Zagreb in PL International Cup opener
Liverpool U21s began their Premier League International Cup campaign with a deserved 2-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb at the Academy on Wednesday night.
A superb early strike from Lewis Koumas gave Barry Lewtas’ team a good foundation and a fine individual effort from Trent Kone-Doherty cemented the victory in the second half.
The opening goal arrived with just four minutes gone after full-back Terence Miles released Ranel Young down the right and the winger was able to pull the ball back for Koumas to curl a classy finish past Dorian Klarin in the opposition goal.
The young Reds – and Koumas – almost got their second within a couple of minutes. A dangerous free-kick from Mateusz Musialowski was met at the back post by the forward in mid-air but his half-volley just skimmed the top of the bar.
Liverpool were well in control without creating too many opportunities to extend their lead.
Dinamo’s first threat emerged approaching the half-hour mark as Viktor Kanizaj was found with an incisive pass, but his effort was weak and straight at Fabian Mrozek as defenders closed in.
Captain Marko Soldo blasted over for the visitors, while Klarin had to be down sharply to keep out a low hit from Musialowski – a threat all night – with the goalkeeper making amends for his own poor clearance.
The Reds’ press was making it difficult for Dinamo to play out and it yielded another chance before the break, James Norris finding Koumas with a clever pass, though the striker put his shot into the side-netting with only the ’keeper to beat.
The away side started the second half in better fashion, flashing a dangerous cross right across the face of goal, and the hosts’ captain, Luca Stephenson – outstanding alongside Lee Jonas at centre-back – was also required to make a couple of important interceptions to snuff out troublesome situations.
Midfielder Tom Hill continued his comeback from injury off the bench after an hour and almost immediately curled in a lovely ball from the right that Klarin got to just before Koumas could head home.
Hill then sent a shot over the top before finding Kone-Doherty on a break, the youngster eventually seeing his shot deflected just wide for a corner.
Liverpool had wrestled the initiative back at this point and duly extended their lead after 71 minutes. It was all down to the close control of Kone-Doherty, who turned cleverly in the box before almost toe-poking a lovely finish into the corner.
A superb block from Stephenson kept the lead intact and it should have been increased again a short time later. A slick exchange of passes between Kone-Doherty and Koumas put the latter in on goal, but he opted to square unselfishly and the chance was lost.
Klarin tipped an effort from Kone-Doherty just over the bar as the Reds finished strongly, more than justifying the three points on their first outing in this season’s tournament.
The group will continue in the New Year with further games for Liverpool against Paris Saint-Germain, SC Braga and Hertha BSC, the top two finishers certain of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Liverpool U21s: Mrozek, Miles, Gyimah (Spearing, 75), Stephenson, Jonas, Pilling, Young (Hill, 60), Norris, Koumas, Musialowski, Kone-Doherty.
Unused substitutes: Kelly, Danns, Samuels, Giblin.