Manchester United Under 21s 3 (Cole 19’(p), 26’(p)) – 0 LFC Under 21s

After last week’s dress rehearsal between these two great rivals, they were back again at Old Trafford, this time with much more up for grabs. The winner of this play-off semi final will go on to face Tottenham Hotspur Under 21s in the final, a side previously coached by none other than Alex Inglethorpe. Spurs’ victory yesterday ruled out any chance of a Merseyside Derby, as they beat Everton 4-3.  The winners of this match will play the final at their home ground on the 18th May, so that should be inspiration for the Under 21s. The Liverpool coach made 5 changes from the 1-1 draw less than a week ago. After Jack Robinson’s successful loan spell at Wolves, he returns in place of Craig Roddan while Andre Wisdom misses out due to featuring in the win at Fulham, so 17 year old Lloyd Jones comes into the side, days after making the bench for the first team’s win on Sunday. Also, because of International duty, Suso doesn’t play and is replaced by Jordon Ibe. Other changes see Joao Carlos Teixeira in for goalscorer Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Dunn is sacrificed for Adam Morgan. Despite Stephen Sama’s red card, he starts as the FA have not banned him, a big boost for the Under 21s. The Red Devils have the 2nd best defensive record in the league, and have only lost 1 game at home all season, so it will be hard for Alex Inglethorpe’s side if they are to win. Also, Ben Amos has kept 5 clean sheets in his last 8 appearances, making scoring even more difficult for Alex Inglethorpe’s side.

The game was even balanced in the first 5 minutes of the game with both sides earning corners but couldn’t create any chances from the corners. The closest the Reds came to scoring was Krisztian Adorjan’s blocked shot on the edge of the box. Man United’s pressure finally paid off as they were awarded a penalty after Stephen Sama’s soft challenge on Tom Lawrence, which saw the defender booked, and the striker getting some stick from the media, due to the softness of the challenge. Larnell Cole took the penalty and sent Danny Ward the wrong way to give the home side the advantage. This is the 3rd time in 3 matches against Man United where the German has picked up a card. The hosts doubled their lead 7 minutes later as another soft penalty was given following Jon Flanagan’s foul. Liverpool will feel cheated though as replays shows that Jon Flanagan was fouled in the build-up before later conceding the foul. Conor Coady was also lucky to escape a yellow card as his late challenge was left unpunished before Larnell Cole again sent Danny Ward the wrong way from the penalty spot to make it 2-0. The young Reds did show some character as Coady won the ball with his committed challenge, and fed it to Adam Morgan, who sliced his shot well wide of Ben Amos’ goal. The score remained 2-0 as the half-time whistle blew, which brought an end to a very controversial first half.

Alex Inglethorpe made a very long half-time talk to try and inspire his team, and they were certainly inspired as they started the second half all guns blazing. Conor Coady was once again involved as his through ball found Morgan, but he was surrounded and the ball was eventually cleared. Moments later, Coady’s cross was too heavy for Kris Peterson and Ben Amos comfortably collected. It was Ibe was forced a save out of Ben Amos in the 49th minute, as his trickery took him past 2 defenders and his cross was well held by the United ‘keeper as Liverpool were now on the front foot. The Reds came closest to getting a goal as yet another powerful and skilful run by Jordon Ibe found Krisztian Adorjan, whose shot blazed over from just inside the box.

Despite Liverpool’s dominance, the hosts had the best chance as a shot from Lingard was well saved by Danny Ward and forced out for a corner. And in the 70th minute a corner wasn’t properly cleared and Larnell Cole fired it past the helpless Danny Ward. There was even more trouble for Liverpool as Jon Flanagan was given a straight red for apparently kicking the ball at the head of a Man Utd player, disgraceful and embarrassing refereeing, which has ruined the tie. To make it worse, replays show Flanagan’s half hearted clearance hit Adnan Januzaj’s body.

It could have been 4 as Lingard rushed through on goal, and would’ve scored if it wasn’t for a last ditch challenge by Adam Morgan. Morgan was then substituted by Vilyan Bijev and the American almost made an immediate impact but his flick was just wide. The game ended 3-0 to Man United meaning that they go to the Under 21 final, where they play Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Saturday 18th May. The defeat means that is an end to the Liverpool Under 21’s season, which definitely saw progress in the Academy, going an unbeaten run for the first phase of the Under 21 league and finishing 3rd in the Elite group.

Scott Taylor

LFC XI: Ward, Flanagan, Robinson, Sama, Jones, Coady, Peterson, Teixeira, Morgan, Adorjan, Ibe.

MUFC XI: Amos, Vermijl, James, Thorpe, Keane, Ekangamene, Cole, Tunnicliffe, Lingard, Januzaj, Lawrence.

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