By Scott Taylor
Sheyi Ojo ensured that Liverpool kept their chances of qualifying for the knockout stages of the UEFA Youth League alive with a 3-0 victory over Ludogorets. The attacking midfielder grabbed a brace before striker Jerome Sinclair added a third for the Reds shortly after, as Neil Critchleys side picked up their third win of the campaign. It means that the Reds and Real Madrid are both tied on nine points, three behind leaders Basle, who the Reds will face in matchday six.
Liverpool again started the game on the front foot. Welshman Harry WIlson had two efforts on goal, but both didn’t trouble Ludogorets’ goalkeeper Emil Gospodinov. The Reds kept hammering away at the Bulgarian defence, and eventally got their reward in the 27th minute. The returning Pedro Chirivella showed why Real Madrid were keen for his signature with a perfectly timed cross into the six yard box for Ojo to acrobatically head home.
The Liverpudlian onslaught didn’t stop there as Jordan Rossiter forced Gospodinov into a sharp save to deny the Reds their second of the game. The midfielder, who made his first team debut last month, had another chance to double Liverpool’s advatage, but his unorthordox backhell was again well saved by Gospodinov.
The Reds almost rounded off a dominant first half with another goal, but it wasn’t to be. Captain Rossiter was again involved, as he supplied Ojo for a simple chance, but the winger fired over from very close range.
The second half was no different to the first as it was dominated by the men in red. Jerome Sinclair found a way past Gospodinov to deservedly make it 2-0 to Liverpool. Chirivella was again influential in the move, as he provided another pin-point cross from the corner, where Sinclair got his head on it and glanced it into the net for his fifth goal of the tournament.
Chance after chance followed for Liverpool. Firstly, Chirivella had a chance of his own, but he couldn’t find the target before Sinclair had another opportunity with his head, but he couldn’t get the correct connection from Corey Whelan’s cross as it sailed over the crossbar.
Liverpool’s youngest ever player almost got his second of the afternoon, as he beat Gospodinov, but was only denied by the frame of his goal. The Ludogorets goalkeeper was in inspired form throughout the game to keep it at a respectable score, and he did just that was he saved a Sergi Canos penalty when the score was still 2-0.
Despite his form, he could do nothing about Liverpool’s third goal, with Ojo hammering in at the near post after a wonderful passing move from Neil Critchley’s side. With their opponents travelling to Real Madrid in matchday six, Liverpool have to beat Basle to have any chance of progressing. It is likely that if they do so, Basle, Real Madrid and Liverpool will all have 12 points in a tightly contested group.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Fulton; Whelan, Cleary, Maguire, Hart; Canos, Rossiter, Ojo; Chirivella (O’Hanlon 82′), Wilson (Kent 73′), Sinclair (Marsh 85′).
Subs Not Used: Firth, Polgar.
Ludogorets (4-1-4-1): Gospodinov; Mihaylov, Petrov, Kerchev, Georgiev; Lyubomirov; Tsvyatkov, Dimitrov, Aleksandrov, Kanchev; Kirilov.
Subs Not Used: Tsenov, Gergov, Petrov, Stanimirov, Kovachev.
For more Academy coverage, follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottTaylorUK