By Scott Taylor
Toni Gomes scored a remarkable hat-trick as Liverpool U18s recovered from 3-0 down to beat Middlesbrough 4-3 at the Kirkby Academy on Saturday morning. Neil Critchley’s side looked to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat to Manchester City on the opening day in their first home game of the season. Despite going 3-0 down, Gomes’ hat-trick and a late Yan Dhanda goal sealed all three points for the hosts.
Liverpool dominated the proceedings early on with Gomes forcing Middlesbrough goalkeeper Tom Dawson into a fingertip save, but it was the visitors who took the lead in the 24th minute. Lee Heatherington cut in from the flank to beat Owen Wheeler in the Liverpool goal. However, the young Reds didn’t let the heads drop. An error from Dawson almost allowed Liverpool to grab an equaliser, but Gomes’ chip was cleared just in time by the Middlesbrough defence.
The end-to-end nature of the game continued and the visitors soon doubled their lead moments before half-time. Patrick Reading’s cross from the left wing picked out Alex Patterson in the area, who comfortably made it 2-0 with a clinical finish.
In the 52nd minute, Middlesbrough looked to have sealed the tie when they made it 3-0. Kane Lewis was far too casual with the ball in his own penalty area, and was punished by Reading, who followed up his assist with a goal of his own.
The Liverpool comeback looked to have started in the 65th minute when Dhanda fought his way through the defence before finding Gomes in the area. The Portuguese midfielder then turned his marker before prodding in home. Gomes threatened a second moments later, but did make it 3-2 shortly after. A curling free-kick from Dhanda was met by Gomes at the near post, and his header flew into the near post leaving Dawson wrong-footed.
In the 81st minute, Gomes scored another header to equalise and in doing so, complete a 16 minute hat-trick for the midfielder. A free-kick from Adam Phillips, from a similar angle to the Dhanda one, found Gomes at the far post, and his header flew into the far corner.
Gomes was heavily involved in the game, but the Reds were dealt a huge blow when he went off with a suspected hamstring injury. However, the ten men of Liverpool completed a remarkable turnaround when Phillips’ lofted through ball picked out Dhanda, who beat the offside track to poke it beyond Dawson as Liverpool picked up their first win of the season.
Liverpool XI: Wheeler; Lewis (Dobie), Johnston, Masterson, Owens (Woodburn); Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kane; Gomes (Naeem), Ejaria, Dhanda.