By Scott Taylor
Ovie Ejaria netted a 34th minute winner as Liverpool U18s beat Stoke City at the Kirkby Academy on Saturday morning. The former Arsenal youngster won the ball on the edge of the penalty box before curling a finish into the far corner. Neil Critchley’s side have now gone five games unbeaten in the U18 Premier League, including winning their last four games.
Missing a number of key players including captain Trent Alexander-Arnold and Herbie Kane, Liverpool did well to grind out a victory in front of Jurgen Klopp and his team. A young Reds side found it tough in the opening minutes with Stoke running the show. Jake Dunwoody had the first opportunity for the visitors, but after exchanging passes with Julien N’Goy and Toby Wells, he fired wide. Moments later, Stoke right back Tom Edwards cut inside from the wing, but his effort was easily dealt with by Shamal George in the Liverpool goal.
Tom Shepherd looked lively for the Potters, and created chances for team-mates Theo Brierley and Julien N’Goy, but Brierley fired wide whilst N’Goy couldn’t get onto a pass across the face of the goal. He then almost had a chance on the stroke of half-time, but a last ditch tackle from Corey Whelan denied him.
The visitors looked to have rued their missed chances after Liverpool took the lead just after the half-hour mark. Ejaria pressed the Stoke City defence, allowing their centre-back to make an error. The attacking midfielder won the ball before slotting the ball into the corner with his side foot to give Liverpool the lead against the run of play. It was his first goal of the season.
Critchley’s side carried on their momentum in the second half, and Ejaria created a wonderful opportunity. The midfielder drilled a low ball across the six yard box, but none of his team-mates were able to get the crucial final touch. Stoke responded through Dunwoody, but the midfielder’s shot fizzed just past the post. Yan Dhanda then continued to assert Liverpool’s dominance on the game, but he dragged his shot just wide.
It was now the home side who almost rued their missed chances, as Stoke went inches away from punishing the young Reds. However, Shepherd could only head Dunwoody’s cross against the post as Stoke threatened to find a way back into the game. A nervous finish emerged when Liam Coyle was sent off for Liverpool late on, but they held on for their fourth consecutive win.
Liverpool U18 rise to fifth in the Barclays U18 Premier League and they next face 10th placed West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday in a re-arranged fixture.
Liverpool XI: George; Lewis, Johnston, Whelan, Dobie; Alves (Brewster 80′), Coyle; Phillips, Ejaria (Owens 90′); Woodburn, Dhanda.
Stoke XI: Marques; Edwards, Williams, Sadiki, Wells; Brierley, Yao, Jarvis, Dunwoody; Shepherd, N’Goy (Ayoola 71′).