By Scott Taylor
Jerome Sinclair scored his 23rd goal of the season, but it was to no avail as Liverpool Under-21s lost 4-3 to Chelsea at Aldershot Town’s Electrical Services Stadium. The Reds needed a win to keep their title hopes alive, but the result means that they have to rely on other results if they are to be champions. The win for Chelsea maintains a title bid of their own, and with the FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League already won, the Blues will be looking to complete the prestigious treble in youth football.
Before the game, Michael Beale made four changes from the side that won 2-1 at home to Leicester, as loanees Jordan Williams, Kevin Stewart and Lloyd Jones returned from spells at Notts County, Burton Albion and Accrington Stanley respectively. Their experience in the football league looked to have showed, when Sinclair gave the Reds the lead.
The striker, who is Liverpool’s youngest ever player, rose highest from a Ryan Kent corner to give his side the lead. However, their joy was shortlived. The Blues responded quickly, going from 1-0 down, to 3-1 up just before half-time. Dominic Solanke, who trained with the England side earlier in the season, scored two of the goals whilst Alex Kiwomya netted the other. Solanke scored his first just four minutes after Sinclair put Liverpool ahead. The forward taking it around Liverpool goalkeeper Ryan Fulton, and tapping home into an empty net. In the 39th minute, Solanke scored his 40th goal of the season before Kiwomya was clinical to give his side a two-goal advantage.
Liverpool started the second half just like they started the first. Cameron Brannagan led by example in the heart of the midfield, and soon reduced the deficit with a nice individual goal. He could’ve had his second of the game shortly after, but after receiving a pass from Kent, the starlet couldn’t convert the chance.
Second-half substitute Harry Wilson narrowly missed the target with a fierce drive. He then had a penalty appeal waved away before Brannagan forced Chelsea ‘keeper Bradley Collins into a smart stop.
Just as the Reds were looking for an equaliser, Chelsea delivered the sucker punch with Solanke completing his hat-trick and scoring his 41st goal of the season. The Reds never gave up, and Wilson scored deep into injury, but Chelsea held on to win a nailbiting seven goal thriller.
After the game, Michael Beale praised his side’s second half performance, but also applauded the talent of Chelsea’s 17-year-old striker Solanke. He told liverpoolfc.com: “I was disappointed with the goals we conceded but Solanke is a quality young player and he caused us problems. I have to say we were outstanding in the second half. We got it back to 3-2 and then we should have had a penalty when Harry was brought down and it would have been a sending-off for their defender. It wasn’t given and we just had to get on with it.”
“We then created seven or eight great chances but just couldn’t score and they scored again through a brilliant finish from Solanke. Even in stoppage time we never gave up. Harry scored and then we should have had another penalty when Sheyi was brought down. I was disappointed with the goals we conceded but Solanke is a quality young player and he caused is problems.”
Liverpool XI: Fulton; Randall, Jones, Williams, Maguire; Stewart, O’Hanlon, Brannagan; Kent, Sinclair, Ojo.