By Scott Taylor
Ryan McLaughlin scored twice as Liverpool Under-21s got back to winning ways with a 5-0 thrashing of West Ham United on Friday night. The Northern Ireland full-back netted his first either side of strikes from Kevin Stewart and Cameron Brannagan, as Michaek Beale’s side led 3-0 at the break. McLaughlin then netted his second and Liverpool’s fourth, before Sergi Canos sealed all three points with his 18th goal of the season.
Following their 4-0 win against the Hammers at Upton Park earlier in the season, the Reds started brightly and looked to emulate their victory on that night. After just three minutes, Liverpool took the lead. A throw-in from Brad Smith evaded everyone and fell to Kevin Stewart 18 yards. From there, the former Tottenham man made no mistake to curl the Reds in front.
Three minutes later, Liverpool doubled their lead with Smith again at the heart of the move. After being played in by Harry Wilson, the Australian left-back cut the ball back into the six-yard box. Lewis Page attempted to clear it but the ball ricocheted off another defender and fell kindly to McLaughlin, who swept it home.
Emmanuel Onariase did well to keep the score at 2-0. After some good build-up play, Canos was presented with the chance but just as he was about to tap home, the Hammers defender did enough to prevent a third goal. Captain Cameron Brannagan linked up well with Wilson and after the Wales winger played in his captain, Brannagan could only poke his effort wide of the mark.
Smith deserved a goal after this two assists and almost got it, but he wasted a chance at the back post. Just two minutes before half-time, it was 3-0. Canos cut in from the left-hand flank and caused problems in the penalty area. He then squared it to Brannagan who slotted it home as a very dominant first half ended with Beale’s side in control. It was also Canos’ 15th assist of the season.
After the interval, Liverpool did not take their foot of the gas. McLaughlin had a bursting run down the right wing but unfortunately hit his effort wide of the mark. Thankfully for the defender, in the 65th minute, Jordan Williams presented him with another chance from a similar angle, and this time to made no mistake to put the Reds firmly in control.
In the 73rd minute, Liverpool rounded off the scoring. Williams played it out wide to Brannagan, who immediately shifted the ball to the Spaniard Canos. He then spun around his marker before firing it past the goalkeeper with his left foot as Liverpool won it style.
The victory moves Beale’s side to second in the table, just one point behind leaders Manchester United. Fortunately for Liverpool, the Red Devils have played a game more, so a win in the Reds’ next game could move them top.
Liverpool XI: Vigouroux; Williams, Cleary, Maguire (Hart 77′); McLaughlin (Trickett-Smith 77′), Stewart, Chirivella, Smith; Brannagan, Wilson (Ejaria 68′), Canos.
West Ham XI: Howes, Knoyle, Page, Makasi, Pike, Onariase, Powell (Gordon 63′), Nasha (Carter 45′), Brown, Cullen (c), Parfitt-Williams (Diangana 69′).