By Scott Taylor
Mich’el Parker scored his first Premier League goal for Liverpool U18s as they made it ten games unbeaten with a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough on Friday afternoon. A mistimed clearance from Parker allowed Lee Hetherington to put the hosts ahead after 17 minutes. However, the defender made amends when he headed home a cross the returning Kane Lewis early in the second half, who made his comeback following a head injury.
Hetherington had the first chance of the game, but after capitalising on a mistake from Herbie Kane, his shot was blocked. Ovie Ejaria then fired a close-range volley narrowly wide for the Reds before Lewis had a penalty appeal turned down moments before the end of the first half.
After a contested opening 45 minutes where chances were shared, the second 45 was dominanted by the visitors against a Middlesbrough side who rested players for their trip to Turin in the week. This was evident as Liverpool’s pressure paid off when Parker netted his maiden Premier League goal. The defender’s only other goal for the Reds came in the 3-1 win at Lincoln City in pre-season.
One of the new signings ,Caoimhin Kelleher, made his long awaited debut for Neil Critchley’s side after receiving international clearance, and performed well in the absence of Shamal George, who was with the U21s. The former Ringmahon Rangers goalkeeper, who signed a four-year deal with Liverpool, made two crucial saves when both Marcus Tavernier and Alex Pattison were clear on goal.
Liverpool had great opportunities to find a winner as well. Toni Gomes’ shot was blocked by Niall McGoldrick before both Ejaria and Kane had efforts cleared off the line by the Middlesbrough defence. Gomes then went inches within scoring, but Boro goalkeeper Aynsley Pears denied him with a full-length dive. Second half substitute Jake Brimmer then went even closer than Gomes, but his 83rd minute shot smashed the crossbar and away to safety as the Reds could not find a winner.
However, the draw did come at a cost for the young Reds. Ben Woodburn, who has added the creative spark to the forward line this season, was replaced after just 15 minutes with a knee injury. Summer signing Bobby Adekanye was also forced off in the second half with an ankle injury, but both will be fit for the game at home to West Brom on Wednesday.
After picking up their fourth draw of the season, Liverpool stay in third, but are now nine points behind Merseyside rivals Everton at the top of the table. They next face 9th placed West Brom looking to do the double after a 3-2 win earlier in the season.
Liverpool XI: Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Parker, Masterson, Johnston; Phillips, Kane; Adekanye (Brimmer 65′), Ejaria, Woodburn (Lewis 15′); Toni Gomes.
By Scott Taylor