By Scott Taylor
Wade Maxwell continued his fine form in front of goal as he scored the winner in Liverpool’s 3-2 victory over Leicester City at the Kirkby Academy. Ovie Ejaria, who featured for the Under-21s in their 5-0 win against West Ham the day before, opened the scoring before Callum Nicholas doubled the Reds’ tally. Keenan King and Josh Knight then scored two goals from set pieces to level the tie. However, Maxwell came off the bench and rounded Foxes goalkeeper Max Bramley to seal the points for Neil Critchley’s side.
The Reds again started brightly, but this time were rewarded for their efforts. Ejaria pulled the strings in the midfield and was heavily involved in the opener. He collected the ball, evaded a tackle on the edge of the box, took it past another defender and then slotted it past Bramley to round off a brilliant individual goal.
Ejaria was one of the more experienced Liverpool midfielders on the pitch, and faced strong competition from his opposite number, Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury. The Foxes midfielder, who was influential in their FA Youth Cup win at Southampton, played through King but Reds stopper Shamal George did enough to keep the ball out.
The saying ‘If you dont take your chances you will be punished’ firmily applied to the visitors as Liverpool doubled their lead moments after. Yan Dhanda played a lofted through ball with the outside of his foot to pick out Nicholas. The forward then waited for the right moment to bury it as Critchley’s chargers were in control at the interval.
The half-time whistle came at the wrong time for Liverpool as Leicester started to grow back into the game. King was lively and dangerous, forcing numerous blocks from the Liverpool defence. One of which was of Kristof Polgar, who got a touch as it went out for a corner. From that resulting corner, King rose highest at the near post and headed past George to half the deficit.
From another set-piece then deficit was no more. A curling ball into the box was only half-cleared by George. His clearance fell to Knight and his header rose above the defenders and the goalkeeper and into the back of the net to equalise.
The ball was now in Leicester’s court, but after 83 minutes a moment of brilliance swifted momentum back to Liverpool. Harvey Whyte, a substitute in the Under-18s last game, played a long ball across the field which found Maxwell. The Reds forward then burst toward goal and prodded the ball beyond the onrushing Bramley to win it the hosts.
After the game, Leicester manager Trevor Peake admitted that they were worse off the in opening period, but his team-talk at half time may have inspired their change of fortune for the rest of the game. He told Leicester’s official site: “We were second best to Liverpool in the first half so we talked to the lads about that at half-time. We soon gained the rewards from that in the second half. We got two goals in the first 20 minutes but then got beaten on the break for the final goal, conceding what turned out to be their winner.”
Peake paid tribute to his set-piece taker Matty Miles, but also for his goalscorers for getting on the end of his corners. “Both of our goals were from corners, with Matty Miles putting in two good deliveries. Keenan King and Josh knight both scored with their heads.”
Liverpool deployed a 3-4-3 formation, and Peake stressed the importance of playing against a a side that uses a unique formation, and said it can only benefit the players.
“We can certainly learn from the defeat. We haven’t played against many team who play three at the back. They had a different system with a packed midfield, so it’s a different experience for the lads to play against and I’m sure it’ll be another learning curbe for them.”
Liverpool XI: George, Johnston, Parker, Polgar; Alexander-Arnold, Whtye, Ejaria, Nicholas; Virtue, Marsh; Dhanda.