Arsenal Under 21s 1 (Eisfeld 50’) – 1 (Bijev 89’) LFC Under 21s

An 89th minute equaliser from debutant Villyan Bijev saw Alex Inglethorpe’s Liverpool Under 21 qualify for the next stage of the Under 21 season. Needing just 1 point in their final two games of the season, Liverpool Under 21s faced Arsenal Under 21s in the final ever competitive game at Barnet’s Underhill, as the Reds were looking to secure qualification to the next stage of the Under 21 season. Alex Inglethorpe made 3 changes from the side that lost to West Ham last week. The first change saw a change in goal as Danny Ward replaced Peter Gulasci. The next change was Ryan McLaughlin replacing the Under 18 captain Jordan Lussey, who returns to the Under 18 squad to face Sunderland on Saturday. The final chance sees Jordon Ibe return from injury to replace Nacho in midfield. McLaughlin’s return to fullback means that Craig Roddan returns to his more familiar midfield role, as he has been playing at left back for recent games. The last time these sides met was in an emphatic 3-2 Liverpool win at Anfield with Adam Morgan and Krisztian Adorjan scoring the goals against an Arsenal side that included first team goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Unlike, all other evening Under 21 games, this game kicked off at 6:30pm GMT but this didn’t affect any of the players as the game started with both defences on top and restricting any chances. However, it was the visitors who had the first chance of the game as a defence mix up resulted in Adam Morgan capitalising and forcing a good stop out of Argentinean Damian Martinez in the Arsenal before Morgan, who was looking to ass to his 13 goals this season, hit the rebound wide. In the 12th minute, Liverpool created a great chance to open the lead as Joao Carlos Teixeira evaded many challenges from the Arsenal defence to find Jordon Ibe, and Ibe took it past former Barcelona player Hector Bellerin and run down the by-line. His pass then picked out Kris Peterson, who received it in the 6 yard box, but unselfishly back-heeled it to Adam Morgan but the Swede’s pass couldn’t find the Liverpool striker and it was cleared for a corner. Ibe was involved in Liverpool’s next chance in the 22nd minute. The former Wycombe winger received the ball on the wing and again took it pass Bellerin, but this time took inside a took a fierce shot which looked on target but Arsenal defender Martin Angha and the shot deflected off for a corner.

Arsenal’s defence were involved in more heroic blocking just a minute later as Jordon Ibe again started the move and took it past Bellerin and made a cross into the box, which found an unmarked Kris Peterson and somehow Martinez makes a miraculous left handed save to deny the 18 year old winger. Another chance immediately followed as the ball fell to Jon Flanagan who gave it to Joao Carlos Teixeira. The Portuguese playmaker than found Adam Morgan who was fouled by Meade in the box, but the ref played on as Peterson collected the ball on the by-line. His pass then deflected off an Arsenal defender on the post, and it fell perfectly to Jordon Ibe, but it was Martin Angha who again blocked it on the line, to somehow keep the tie at 0-0. The Reds were now dominating the game and Kris Peterson won a free-kick in a good position on the right side. From the resulting free-kick, Teixeira’s expertly weighted cross found Peterson made his shot hit the side netting as Alex Inglethorpe’s side were now in absolute control.

Arsenal’s first chance came in the 34th minute as Zelalem’s free-kick from 25 yards curled straight into the hands of Danny Ward. The free-kick came from sloppy play from Stephen Sama but the German centre-back was let off with a warning. Ryan McLaughlin was playing out of position at left-back, but adapted very well and Bellerin fouled the Northern Irishman to win a free-kick in the 35th minute. The resulting free-kick saw Krisztian Adorjan curl it just over the bar, despite shouts of ‘Hit the target’ by Adam Morgan.  Right before half-time Jordon Ibe created a chance to take the lead as he yet again took it inside Bellerin but his shot bobbled and as a result his shot went wide. The half ended with score goalless but Alex Inglethorpe’s Liverpool Under 21s were far the better team, with Jordon Ibe being the standout player as he created several chances and was unlucky not to score.

Despite Liverpool’s dominance in the first half, it was Arsenal that took the lead through Thomas Eisfeld in the 50th minute. The German midfielder won the ball off Krisztian Adorjan and ran at the Liverpool defence. The midfielder wasn’t closed down and as a result had plenty of time to pick his spot as the ball sailed into the top corner leaving Liverpool ‘keeper Danny Ward no chance to give the Gunners the lead against the run of play. This goal goes to show that you must take the chances given to you if you want to win the game. Arsenal almost doubled their lead in the 55th minute after a cross from 16 year old former Barcelona player Gedion Zelalem eventually fell to Sead Hajrovic, but the Swiss fullback sliced his shot to keep Liverpool in the game.

The Gunners almost doubled their lead through Chuba Akpom on the hour mark, as the striker beat the offside trap but his shot crashed into the side netting of Danny Ward’s net to keep the tie at 1-0 as Arsenal continued to dominate the early stages of the second half. Liverpool couldn’t get a stronghold in the game and Meade almost gave Arsenal their second goal of the game but his shot went flying over Danny Ward’s crossbar. Craig Roddan came closest for Liverpool in the second half as his deflected shot went straight at Martinez. Jordon Ibe tried to get his team back in the game as he took it past two Arsenal defenders and shot towards goal, but Hajrovic cleared in the penalty area. Liverpool needed to score to at least send them through to the next round of the Under 21 league, so brought on winger Jack Dunn for Joao Carlos Teixeira and forward Villyan Bijev, who picked up his work permit so that he can now play for the Under 21s and made his debut as he replaced Kris Peterson.

Liverpool’s best chance came in the 88th minute as Craig Roddan’s interception found Krisztian Adorjan and the Hungarian kept running before deciding to hit it from 25 yards out, but it went just wide. In the 89th minute Liverpool got their goal through debutant Villyan Bijev to secure their place in the next stage of the U21 league. The move started from none other than Jordon Ibe as he yet again beat Hector Bellerin and looked up, saw Bijev and the American striker slotted it past Martinez from 6 yards out to send Alex Inglethorpe’s young Reds through to the next stage of the Under 21 league. The Reds next fixture will be their last in the Under Elite Group as they face arch rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday 6th May. Liverpool will be looking to win the game, as they will gain more confidence as there is a chance they will face the Red Devils in the next stage of the U21 League.

LFC XI: Ward, Flanagan, McLaughlin, Sama, Jones, Roddan, Teixeira, Peterson, Adorjan, Ibe, Morgan.

Arsenal XI: Martinez, Bellerin, Hajrovic, Angha, Meade, Yennaris, Olsson, Zelalem, Eisfeld, Gnabry, Akpom.

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