Liverpool Under 19s 4 (Sinclair 30’ 83′, Cleary 38’, O’Hanlon 39’) – 0 Ludogorets Under 19s

A brace from Jerome Sinclair and goals from Dan Cleary and Alex O’Hanlon were enough for Liverpool Under 19s as they kicked off their UEFA Youth League Campaign with a 4-0 win over rookies Ludogorets Razgrad. Reds manager Neil Critchley had 8 players in his side that have all played Under 21s football and their experience was key as they blew the Bulgarians away with three first half goals. The game started off in a heavy manner, with the Ludogorets defenders producing frequent fouls on Liverpool wings Ryan Kent and Sheyi Ojo.

From this point on it was clear that Ludogorets set up to counter Liverpool on the break, and the Bulgarian side, to give credit to them tried it on many occasions. The first real chance of the game came in the 15th minute when Jerome Sinclair missed a big chance to give the young Reds the lead. Firstly, Alex O’Hanlon’s attempted cross was blocked and the follow was hit fiercely into the penalty box by left-back Sam Hart. It then fell to an unmarked Sinclair, whose glancing header from six yards out went closer to the corner flag than the goalframe.

Ludogorets did look dangerous going forward, getting the better of both Dan Cleary and Tom Brewitt but goalkeeper Andy Firth remained untroubled.

After half an hour, the Reds attack did prove clinical when Jerome Sinclair made up for his earlier chance with a simple, yet full stretched tap-in. Again the move started off on the left flank when O’Hanlon gathered the ball, it then fell to Sam Hart and his low cross found 17 year old Sinclair and his outstretched boot at the front post did enough to five the Reds a well deserved lead. The action soon heated up, with captain Jordan Rossiter and playmaker Cameron Brannagan both testing the Ludogorets goalkeeper within moments of each other.

Neil Critchley’s side then found themselves 2-0 up through defender Dan Cleary. The move started with Brannagan inside the area, but his cross was cleared straight too Cleary. The Irishman looked up and shifted it out wide to compatriot Alex O’Hanlon and it was the Liverpool Number 10 who delivered a perfectly weighted cross to Cleary and at the back post, who nodded it into the far corner of the goal. Just as Liverpool started to comps themselves again, it was 3-0 as O’Hanlon added to his earlier assist with a goal for himself. Ryan Kent’s through ball reached O’Hanlon on the edge of the area, and the midfielder passed it into the net as the Reds kicked off their European campaign with a dominant first half at Langtree Park. Thomas Shakov came close for Ludogorets only to be denied by a smart save from Firth.

Liverpool came out in the second half, and seemed to have a much calmer tempo to their game from the first half, and the closest Liverpool came was when Jordan Rossiter’s direct free-kick went just wide of the near post as the 17 year old tried to outsmart Ludogoret’s 16 year old goalkeeper. This turned out to be the only noteworthy bit of action as the game was about the midfield battle as Ludogorets started to threaten the Reds, too little too late. 17 year old Ojo, who starred in the Under 21s 4-0 win at West Ham on Friday night then went close with a deflected curling effort. In the 65th minute, Critchley made two substitutions. Firstly, the in-form Ryan Kent was replaced by Wales International Harry Wilson and Spaniard Pedro Chirivella replaced Cameron Brannagan as Liverpool looked to maintain their 3-0 lead. The Under 19s head coach then made his third and final change shortly after as another Spaniard, Sergi Canos replaced Ojo on the left flank.

Liverpool rounded off a good performance when Sinclair struck Liverpool’s fourth. Harry Wilson’s 25 yard free-kick struck the post and then rebounded out to the penalty area, where Sinclair was waiting to pounce and double his goal tally in the game.

So, Liverpool Under 19s kicked off their UEFA Youth League campaign with a 4-0 win over Ludogorets at Langtree Park and next face an away trip to Basel, no doubt a tougher test than this game.

LFC XI: Firth, Maguire, Hart, Cleary, Brewitt, Rossiter, Kent, Brannagan, Sinclair, O’Hanlon, Ojo.