Hello and welcome to part 2 of the Under 18s tour of the USA, before you continue reading, if you haven’t read part 1 to this unique feature then you can read it simply by clicking here. After their first two games of the tournament, Mike Garrity’s Liverpool Under 18s were 2nd in the group, with a 100% record, behind leaders Maccabi Haifa only of goal difference, after the Israeli side beating Fuddercol 7-0 on Wednesday 28th August. This meant that the Reds had to win if they were to qualify for the final of the Newark Liberty International Soccer Summit, otherwise they will have to compete for 3rd place.
Garrity made another 4 changes for the final group game. After keeping a clean sheet in the opening game, Andy Firth replaced Ryan Crump in goal. Also, the left-back position seems to be interchanging and this continues as Sam Hart is replaced by David Robets. The third change sees Alex O’Hanlon replaced by England Under 17 youth international Sheyi Ojo before Sergi Canos was replced by Ryan Kent, who performed well in the first game of the tournament. It only took the Reds 6 minutes to take the lead as yet again Harry Wilson was on the scoresheet as he latched onto Kristof Polgar’s path to give him his 5th goal of the season and becomes the Academy’s top scorer. Knowing that Maccabi Haifa had the ability to score plenty of goals, Liverpool tried to double their advantage, as Adam Phillips had two chances in quick succession but couldn’t take any of them as the score remained 1-0.
In the 23rd minute, Maccabi Haifa were awarded a penalty after a challenge inside the box. Liverpool have not conceded from the penalty spot all season, that meant Andy Firth was responsible for keeping that record intact, and he did after superbly saving with his legs meaning that he hasn’t conceded a goal in the whole tournament. Chances rarely followed for the remainder of the first half, but Liverpool did have one important chance as Harry Wilson raced through 1-on-1 but couldn’t beat the Maccabi Haifa ‘keeper, as Liverpool had the advantage at half-time. If there were to have any chance of qualifying for the final, Maccabi Haifa had to score, and they certainly put pressure on the Reds in the second half.
Firstly, Tom Brewitt was Liverpool’s hero as he cleared an effort off the line before Andy Firth did well stop a low drive, as an equaliser looked imminent. Because of this, Mike Garrity made a double substitution as Sheyi Ojo and goalscorer Harry Wilson were replaced by Alex O’Hanlon and Sergi Canos. However on 71 minutes, the substitution couldn’t prevent the Israeli side from scoring as Or Elioz became the first player to beat Firth as Maccabi Haifa gained the advantage despite the scores being level. Liverpool were piling the pressure onto the Maccabi Haifa defence, but couldn’t find a winner.
A 3rd/4th place play-off looked likely, but after some desperate attacking by the Reds, they with the last kick of the game, the Merseyside club finally got rewarded with their goal as Under 16 goal machine Adam Phillips scores to send the Reds to their 2nd final in 2 tournaments and bring an end to a very entertaining match. The Reds will play the winner of either Inter Milan or QPR, who as expected occupied the top 2 places in Group A.
LFC Starting XI: Firth, Brewitt, Cleary, Polgar, Roberts, Burke, Phillips, Ojo, Wilson, Trickett-Smith, Kent.
Liverpool Under 18s couldn’t rest up following their dramatic win in their final group game, as they were playing in the final of the Newark Liberty International Soccer Summit the very next day. In the other group, it was QPR who beat Inter Milan which meant that the Reds will face the London side in the final. This meant that for the first time in the cup’s history an English side will be victorious.
In the 3rd/4th place play-off earlier in the day, Inter Milan beat Maccabi Haifa 4-2, showing that goals were flying in, so could Liverpool continue their goalscoring form and bring the cup back to Anfield.
So, after many inspired performances, Mike Garrity had a headache when considering team selection. He made 4 changes from the side that dramatically beat Maccabi Haifa in the last game. Despite, a heroic penalty save and yet another clean sheet, Andy Firth lost his place to Ryan Crump. Also, another regulation change occurred at left-back as Sam Hart replaced David Roberts. Following strong performances in the group stage, Ryan Kent was surprisingly replaced by Alex O’Hanlon whilst Sergi Canos, who will be looking to prove a point to selectors started in place of Academy top scorer Harry Wilson, as the Liverpool Under 18s looked under strength, especially as Wilson and Kent were not in the starting XI.
It is natural theme that Liverpool start games well, and this is no different, as the Reds created their first chance within the first 5 minutes as Sergi Canos came close with a header from a corner, he also created another chance a moment later, but his low shot could not beat the QPR ‘keeper. On the 24 minute mark, there was a goal and it was QPR who took the lead following a defensive mix-up beat the Reds’ centre-backs leaving QPR player Shodipo with the perfect opportunity to score, and he took his chance with both hands as QPR had the advantage. After the goal, QPR were full of confidence, restricting Liverpool to any possession and controlling the game.
There was more bad news on the 37th minute as Irish centre-back Daniel Cleary went off injured and was replaced by David Roberts, who was now playing out of position. Liverpool’s miserable half continued as QPR doubled the lead in the 41st minute as striker Grego-Cox placed one past Ryan Crump, but immediately after Liverpool pulled a goal back through Sergi Canos who rose the highest to head past the ‘keeper from a corner to give the Reds some hope going into the second half.
Knowing that Liverpool needed 2 goals to win, they brought on winger Ryan Kent for Under 21 forward Daniel Trickett-Smith in order to create more chances and add width to the squad. Just 2 minutes after this substitution, QPR again scored to make it 3-1 as Grego-Cox again beat Crump to score his second goal of the match.
3 minutes later, Liverpool’s disastrous game got even worse as Aaron Mitchell scores to effectively rule out a Reds’ comeback to make it 4-1 in the 55th minute. Mike Garrity finally brought on Harry Wilson as the Welsh winger tried to add to his tally of 5 goals this season. However, it didn’t take long for QPR to score their 5th as Andreas Komodikis all but secured the silverware for the R’s in the 76th minute. Despite a miserable 80 minutes, Liverpool did end the game positively as Harry Wilson’s low shot was well saved by the QPR ‘keeper, but it was too late to start creating chances as QPR thrashed Mike Garrity’s Liverpool Under 18s 5-1 in the final to become the first English team to win the competition as Liverpool returned home finishing 2nd out of 8 teams, as an overall impressive tournament ended in the most disappointing way for the Reds.
LFC Starting XI: Crump, Brewitt, Cleary, Polgar, Hart, Burke, Phillips, Ojo, Canos, Trickett-Smith, O’Hanlon.
Despite the final result, Liverpool Under 18s played superbly throughout the tournament creating a lot of problems and creating many chances. Up to the final, Liverpool were very strong defensively, in fact Andy Firth did not concede at all in the tournament. They was also stand-out performances for Harry Wilson, Ryan Kent and Nathan Burke as all 3 proved a point to the selectors following strong performances. That wraps up the coverage of Liverpool Under 18s in the USA, and if you enjoyed this review, be sure to share it and if you have any feedback, then simply let me know. Finally, for more updates on Liverpool Under 18s and the Academy, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@scotttayloruk), nearing 1k followers so any help would be appreciated.
Until Next Time Reds…