By Scott Taylor
Alex O’Hanlon was on target for Liverpool U21s, but he couldn’t stop them from suffering a 2-1 defeat to Fulham in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League at Chester on Tuesday. The Irish midfielder, 18, opened the scoring in the 29th minute, but Moussa Dembele equalised for the visitors four minutes later. Moments after the equaliser, Adetayo Edun completed the turnaround for Fulham, as Michael Beale’s side miss out on the chance to go top of the league.
Ryan McLaughlin was playing on the right wing, and made that role his own by looking lively in the early exchanges. It was encouraging for Liverpool that he created chances for the returning Jerome Sinclair and O’Hanlon, as the Reds edged closer to an opener.
The pressure soon told in the 29th minute. Jose Enrique, who was making his comeback from a lengthy injury spell, burst down the left flank before finding O’Hanlon. The midfielder opened the scoring as he poked past Fulham goalkeeper Marek Rodak and into the far corner of the goal.
The Reds’ lead in the match was short-lived and lasted just four minutes. They went in search of a second, and in doing so lacked numbers in defence. Fulham took advantage of this and Solomon Sambou played in England youth international Dembele, who finished a counter-attack from the visitors to level the tie.
Liverpool were all over the place defensively after Fulham’s equaliser and the visitors scored the second of the match again four minutes after. Dembele turned provider this time as he shrugged off a challenge from Enrique and player it through to Edun. He was left with a great opportunity to give Fulham the lead, and he made no mistake driving it past Lawrence Vigouroux with a left-footed effort.
Beale’s side recovered in the second half and looked the most likely side to grab a goal. O’Hanlon had another good chance, but he was denied by Rodak. Ryan Kent and Samed Yesil also made their comebacks from long-term injuries. Yesil in particular as the striker, 20, ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament for the second time in a year in January 2014. They were both presented with a chance to equalise but again Rodak was equal to their efforts.
When Liverpool were on the front foot, there were almost given a sense of de ja vu as Fulham counter-attacked. Joshua Smile had an effort from range which beat Vigouroux but luckily for the hosts, the ball bounced off the crossbar as the score remained 2-1.
Captain Cameron Brannagan had two efforts late on, but couldn’t put them to good use as Beale’s Reds suffered another defeat to their London counterparts. The few positives that Liverpool could take out of the game was that Enrique, Kent and Yesil all made their comebacks from injury.
After the Beale was asked about Yesil’s comeback, and he feels that he is stronger than the first time to ruptured his ligaments and describes him as a poacher in front of goal, despite missing a late chance. That is something that Beale believes is down to rustiness.
He said: “With Samed, when you get your body back, those little other little things go as well. He’s looked better coming back this time than the previous time so that’s hopeful. I know he looks a little bit off it but he still has his one chance [on goal] and if it goes in everyone is calling him a hero. He is that sort of player, around the box things just tend to fall to him, no-one really knows why but that is the mystique of a centre forward.”
Liverpool XI: Vigouroux; Randall, Cleary, Maguire, Enrique (Yesil 60′); Chirivella, O’Hanlon; McLaughlin (Kent 51′), Brannagan, Canos; Sinclair.