U21s match report: Liverpool beaten on penalties in PL2 play-off at Tottenham

AcademyU21s match report: Liverpool beaten on penalties in PL2 play-off at Tottenham

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By Chris Shaw

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Liverpool U21s were eliminated from the Premier League 2 play-offs at the quarter-final stage after a penalty shootout defeat by Tottenham Hotspur.

Lewis Koumas had finished off a slick team move to give Barry Lewtas’ Reds the lead at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday evening.

Jamie Donley’s audacious long-range goal levelled and a double from Tyrese Hall either side of the interval put Spurs clear, but the visitors restored parity via an Alfie Dorrington own goal and James Norris.

Both teams had chances in extra-time but the score remained 3-3, meaning a penalty shootout – which Tottenham prevailed in 5-4.

Liverpool made a confident start in the capital and their early vim was rewarded with the opening goal on 11 minutes.

Trey Nyoni’s vision and technique combined for a pass slid through into Norris’ burst into the box from the left, and his accurate low cross into the middle was tucked home by Koumas from yards out.

Tails up, the Reds got Koumas in again soon after. Kieran Morrison intercepted a pass and poked a fine ball in behind for the goalscorer, who this time had the ball slightly stuck under his feet and could only send a tame effort into the gloves of the goalkeeper.

Spurs – who ended the regular season top of the table – then began to respond, with Hall shooting wide and Yago Santiago well off target when found in a good position from a cutback.

And they levelled with 26 on the clock, via an outstanding piece of skill.

Donley took the ball away from Nyoni and from fully 40 yards, having spotted Fabian Mrozek off his line, lifted a clinical effort over the Liverpool ’keeper and under the crossbar.

Instantly from the restart, Hall’s first touch from Nile John’s angled pass took him into space inside the box, but his low hit across Mrozek was saved well.

It was short-lived respite, however, as the home side edged in front on 36.

Donley controlled a fizzed pass into the middle from the flank and fed the ball into the supporting run to his right of Hall, who dinked a cool finish over the oncoming Mrozek.

The Reds might have hauled themselves back on terms before the break, only for Luca Gunter to deflect away Nyoni’s driven strike after a dangerous dribble.

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Lewtas’ charges again made a positive start when the second half kicked off, though Spurs extended their advantage in minute 47.

John’s lofted right-to-left cross was nodded down by Will Lankshear in the area and Hall thrashed the ball into the roof of the net with no chance for Mrozek.

Donley next crashed a strike off the Reds’ crossbar after a forward pass deflected off two Liverpool players and landed kindly for him.

The visitors turned the momentum around as they battled for a lifeline.

Gunter beat away a blast from Norris when the full-back was sent sprinting in behind by Koumas’ backheel, before the latter was narrowly off target having cut out a pass from the opposition goalkeeper and tried to find the exposed net from distance.

And they set up a fascinating finale by reducing the deficit on 72 minutes.

Following up a short corner, Josh Davidson embarked on a brilliant run to the left byline and his delivery towards Carter Pinnington in the centre squirmed over the line, with the last touch given as Dorrington’s.

Ten minutes later, they deservedly equalised. Norris stole possession from George Abbott high up the pitch, moved into the box and fired an assured diagonal past Gunter.

Any winning goal before the end of normal time looked certain to be from Liverpool, with Gunter tipping a Morrison daisy-cutter around the post and blocking from Koumas in stoppage time.

But an extra half-hour did ensue, during which the away side’s best chance landed to Amara Nallo, who sliced too high from Wellity Lucky’s knockdown.

Mrozek produced several vital stops to keep a revitalised Tottenham out late on, and so spot-kicks were required to decide the semi-final place.

Nine of 10 penalties were converted, with Norris the sole unfortunate taker to be denied, meaning the hosts advanced to the next stage.

TEAM

Liverpool U21s: Mrozek, Miles, Norris, Nallo, Pinnington, Pilling, Morrison, Davidson, Koumas, Nyoni (Lucky, 106), Laffey (Stephenson, 71).

Unused subs: O. Kelly, Spearing.

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