LFC Under 18s 3 (Ibe 23’, 54’, Ojo 107’) – 3 (Ready 24’, Stauton-Turner 61’, Telford 100’)  Blackpool Under 18s AET (LFC won 4-3 on penalties)

Penalty heroics from Ryan Crump ensured that his Liverpool side booked their place into the FA Youth Cup 4th round and a place against Aston Villa, who memorably won the NextGen series last season. Goals from Jordon Ibe and Sheyi Ojo were part of a 6 goal thriller where both sides could not be separated, even after 120 minutes of football. It was also the final game of 2013 for Liverpool’s Under 18s and they sure went out with a bang.

Preview

Before the game, Under 18s manager Neil Critchley had some selections issues as Jordan Rossiter, Jordon Ibe, Cameron Brannagan, Lloyd Jones and Jack Dunn were all eligible from the Under 21s to play as well as his usual talented Under 18 squad. Because of this, Daniel Trickett-Smith and Nathan Burke were left out of the side all together, whilst talented prospect Sheyi Ojo, summer signing Sergi Canos and Wales International Harry Wilson could only make the bench. It is reported that Brendan Rodgers has personally asked Neil Critchley to play Jordon Ibe, suggesting that Rodgers wants him to get some game time, as he has been training with the first team and has been making the matchday squad. It would have helped Neil Critchley to have Ibe at his disposal because he was facing a very tough Blackpool side, who are top of their respective league and have lost only once this season, meaning that it will be a very tough test for his young starlets.

As well as tough opponents, the conditions were also against the Reds, as gusty winds and torrential rain were ever present at Bloomfield Road.

First Half

The half began in a very mediocre tempo with Liverpool pressing well, but there was no clear cut chances falling in the first 5 minutes, with the only chance falling to Ryan Kent, whose weak shot from 18 yards was easily blocked by Blackpool’s defence. Jordon Ibe started to come into the game as the 10 minute mark came and went, latching on to a long through ball from Pedro Chirivella, before his cross was deflected wide by former Liverpool player Harrison McGahey.

The Reds almost opened the scoring in the 16th minute as Jordon Ibe again beat Luke Higham, but instead of pulling the ball back to one of his team-mates, his shot on the byline was well saved by Blackpool ‘keeper Connor Hunt. Hunt was again in action moments later, when he easily saved Jerome Sinclair’s shot as Liverpool were starting to get closer to an opener. That opener came shortly after as Hunt’s clearance fell to Jordon Ibe, who skipped past 2 Blackpool defenders then rounded the ‘keeper before calmly slotting home as the Reds took the lead in the 23rd minute.

That lead to didn’t last long as Conor Ready received the ball from the left wing, turned and unleashed a shot that was unstoppable to equalise. Many may say that the goal was wind assisted, but take no credit away from the strike from Ready as Blackpool responded in the perfect way to bring the scores level.

The next 15 minutes of the half created little chances but with 7 minutes left of the half, Ibe almost put Liverpool back in front, when his trickery caused problems in the box. Ibe skipped past a couple of defenders before his fierce shot was tipped onto the post by Hunt as Liverpool looked the more likely to lead at half-time. Unfortunately, Liverpool couldn’t break down Blackpool’s defence as the half ended 1-1.

Second Half

The 2nd half began a lot more fiercely than the first with 3 chances being created in the opening two minutes. Firstly, Jerome Sinclair’s curly effort from 20 yards out went wide of Hunt’s goal. From the resulting goal-kick, Hunt picked out Cameron and the winger’s first time shot was well beaten away by Ryan Crump. The 3rd and final chance came as Ibe’s ball unexpectedly found Jordan Rossiter who could only head it wide.

Ibe continued where he left off in the 50th minute when he again took it past Higham, before blazing his effort over Connor Hunt’s crossbar. Liverpool did find their 2nd of the match when Jordan Rossiter picked the ball up just inside the Blackpool half, looked up and expertly weighed a through ball that found Jordon Ibe, who was very composed as he slot it past Connor Hunt to give him and Liverpool their 2nd goal of the night under the watchful eyes of Brendan Rodgers.

On the hour mark, Neil Critchley made Liverpool’s first change of the night when Sergi Canos replaced Ryan Kent who recently signed his first professional contract with the club as Liverpool looked to put daylight between themselves and the Seasiders.

However that did not happen as like the first half, Blackpool immediately responded. Luke Higham’s corner was punched away by Ryan Crump, but it fell to Sam Stauton-Turner, who netted an important equaliser for Blackpool as Liverpool went back to the drawing board.

Blackpool were presented a clear cut opportunity to take the lead for the first time as a shot was spilled by Ryan Crump, but Connor Randall did just enough to put off Deon Charles as he blasted one over. Sergi Canos then went close to winning it for Liverpool but his 25 yard strike was well saved by Connor Hunt as he forced it out for a corner, which came to nothing. The bad news for Liverpool was that Jordon Ibe was forced off with a suspected ankle injury and couldn’t continue as a result, so Neil Critchley brought on Wales International Harry Wilson for the final 8 minutes of the tie.

Unfortunately, the Reds could not find that winner and more importantly defended heroically in the final stages to stop Blackpool getting a winner.

Extra Time

Because both sides couldn’t find a winner in normal time, extra had to be played. Harry Wilson came close for the Reds in the 2nd minute of extra time, but his weak shot was again saved by Connor Hunt, who has had a tremendous game between the sticks for Blackpool. Blackpool continued where they left off in the second half as they persistently applied the pressure on Liverpool’s defence. That pressure paid off when Blackpool took the lead in the 10th minute, when Dom Telford put Blackpool ahead with a 35-40 yard lob. Telford, who models his game around Luis Suarez, produced a moment of magic that the Uruguayan would be proud of to give Blackpool the lead.

Jerome Sinclair then missed a great opportunity to make it 3-3 as his header looped over Hunt’s goal.

With Liverpool needing a goal, Neil Critchley brought on Sheyi Ojo in place of the struggling Cameron Brannagan, as the Reds looked for an all important equaliser. However, Jordan Williams heroically stopped Liverpool from being 4-2 down as Dom Telford took it past Ryan Crump but his shot was well blocked by Jordan Williams on the line. Heroic defending turned into heroic attacking as Sheyi Ojo equalised for the Reds in the 107th minute. Ojo picked the ball up with his first touch of the game, dribbled in towards goal a hit a powerful low drive with his left foot which beat Hunt and give Ojo a dream start to his FA Youth Cup run this season. Liverpool almost made it 4-3 through Wilson but his shot was blocked on the line.

Penalties

So, it went to penalties. Penalties from Lloyd Jones, Sheyi Ojo, Harry Wilson and Joe Maguire were enough for the Reds to progress to the FA Youth Cup 4th round against Aston Villa. However, penalty misses from Jerome Sinclair and Pedro Chirivella set up a nervy finish, but hero Ryan Crump, who has a habit of saving penalties after his heroics vs Everton, saved 2 penalties as he was the hero on a very sloppy night for the young Reds.

Team Line-Ups

LFC XI: Crump; Randall, Williams, Jones, Maguire; Rossiter, Chirivella; Kent, Brannagan, Ibe; Sinclair.

Blackpool XI: Hunt; Thurston, McGahey, Moulden, Higham; Stauton-Turner, Waddington; Charles, Ready, Cameron; Lomax.

Thanks for taking the time to read this new match report on my blog, and for more content on Liverpool’s Under 21s and Under 18s then simply keep an eye out on the blog http://www.thenextgenkopites.wordpress.com. Finally, for more Academy updates, then be sure to follow me on Twitter (@ScottTaylorUK).

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