By Scott Taylor
Jerome Sinclair was again on target but he couldn’t prevent Liverpool Under 18s exiting the FA Youth Cup in the fifth round stage, losing 3-2 AET to Birmingham City. Sinclair, 18, gave the Reds the lead just after the half-hour mark, but Neil Critchley’s side were dealt a hammer blow when George O’Neill equalised moments before the interval.
The turnaround was complete when Sam Deadfield gave Birmingham the lead in blustery conditions at Chester’s Deva Stadium. Ovie Ejaria spared Liverpool’s blushes with an equaliser 13 minutes from time. This meant the tie was to go to extra-time.
The additional 30 minutes proved too much for the young Reds, as Keiran Dunbar sealed the Blues’ progression meaning that Liverpool’s FA Youth Cup hopes were dashed at the Deva.
Liverpool started the tie brightly and with quick tempo. Jordan Rossiter, who made his first-team debut earlier in the season, proved why he is in Brendan Rodgers’ plan when he ran through the Birmingham defence and played through Sinclair. Knowing the threat of Sinclair, the Birmingham defence charged down his effort before he could deal any significant damage.
New Wigan loanee Sheyi Ojo then tested Birmingham ‘keeper Jake Weaver for the first time in the 8th minute with a low shot from a tight angle. Heroic defending from Wes Harding stopped Sinclair from scoring what would have been the easiest goal of his career.
Liverpool were well and truly knocking on the door of their opponents. Adam Phillips had his effort denied by Weaver after good offensive play from the midfielder who completed pre-season with the first team.
Robbie Fowler was in attendance, and Sinclair, a forward who will no doubt look up to the Kop icon, produced a moment of brilliance that Fowler would have been proud of. Collecting the ball just inside the Birmingham half, he burst through the midfield and from then on, only one thing was on his mind.
The Reds’ youngest ever player breezed past Blues defender Josh Martin before producing a tidy finish past Weaver to give Liverpool what seems to be a well deserved lead. That lead however did not last long as a lapse in concentration allowed Jordan Potter the chance to break.
Potter robbed Rossiter of possession just inside the Liverpool half before looking up and finding O’Neill who compsosed himself before beating Firth in the Liverpool goal.
It was a sucker punch for the young Reds to deal with. On the opposite scale of the spectrum, tthe Birmingham players grew when Sinclair picked up an injury, which caused a long delay in play moments into the second half.
From that incident, a rejuvinated Birmingham took the lead. Goalscorer O’Neill was again involved as he cut in off the flanks and played through Deadfield. It was then left for the youngster to strike a first-time shot beyond Liverpool goalkeeper Andrew Firth.
If the Blues thought they had erased any threat with the injury to Sinclair, they were wrong, as Ejaria replaced the injured forward and made an instant impact. Phillips battled to win the ball and once he did, he fed the former Arsenal midfielder who blasted a much needed equaliser into the back of the net.
The young midfielder, almost made a dream cameo appearance after he thought he had won it in injury-time, but his half-volley was narrowly wide. Ojo went just as close shortly after as Birmingham were hanging on to their Youth Cup hopes.
The Championship side responded well. Kyle McFarlane and O’Neill tested Firth either side of full-time and extra-time, before Harry Wilson curled a free-kick over the bar. Firth pulled of another impressive save, this time off second-half substitute Khaellem Bailey, but he could do nothing as Dunbar tapped in the rebound to send Birmingham through.
They will now face either Southampton or Leicester City in the quarter-finals, as they play at St Mary’s on Thursday night.
Liverpool XI: Firth; Whelan, Brewitt (c) (Arnold 119′), Hart; Wilson, Rossiter (Gomes 116′), Chirivella, Ojo; Canos, Phillips, Sinclair (Ejaria 63′).
Birmingham XI: Weaver; Cotton, Bernard (c), Cooper, Harding; Martin, Dunbar, Deadfield (Bailey 69′), McFarlane; Potter (Seddon 102′), O’Neill.