By Scott Taylor
Jose Enrique played 45 minutes for Liverpool U21s, but they lost 2-0 at home to Benfica in their second consecutive U21 International Cup game. Diogo Goncalves gave the Portuguese side the lead in the 36th minute with a sublime effort. Shortly after half-time, Joao Carvalho doubled the visitors’ lead with to maintain their 100% record in the competition.
Benfica had won both of their previous two games, and looked well on their way to winning a third as they started off the better of the two sides. A mis-timed backpass from Tom Brewitt in the 10th minute almost allowed Goncalves to capitalise, but Andy Firth was quick of his line to deny him. The visitors starved the young Liverpool side of possession, but when they had the ball, Michael Beale’s side did create chances, with Jack Dunn firing straight at Miguel Santos after capitalising on a mistake from Pawel Dawidowicz.
However, Benfica responded in the 25th minute, but Pedro Rebocho could only hit the side netting. The visitors almost opened the scoring midway through the first half. Rebocho burst down the left wing and found Goncalves in the penalty area, but just as he was shoot, Joe Maguire superbly denied him with a last-gasp block. Moments later, Maguire, or any of the Liverpool defenders, could do nothing about Goncalves’ effort nine minutes before half time. Sancidino Silva showed great individual skill to take it past the Liverpool defence before setting up Goncalves, who curled his effort beyoind the reach of Firth to give Benfica the lead.
After scoring the opening goal, Goncalces set up the second as he played in Carvalho to hammer another day past Firth, who was deputising for the absent Ryan Fulton, who was with the first team. However, Liverpool responded well and showed great fight to respond. Matty Virtue had a 20 yard shot palmed away by Miguel Santos in the Benfica goal, but the follow-up from Brewitt was ruled out for offside.
This did not stop the young Reds as they continued to attack. Sam Hart produced some neat work to set up Jerome Sinclair in the 81st minute, but his close-range effort was spectacularly denied by Santos. More positive news came as Brad Smith came on as a substitute in his second spell with the club after being released at the end of last season.
Liverpool next face Sunderland in the U21 Premier Cup on Tuesday evening.
Liverpool XI: Firth; Whelan, Brewitt, Maguire, Enrique (Hart 45′); Virtue, O’Hanlon; Trickett-Smith (Smith 69′), Brannagan, Dunn (Madger Gomes 83′); Sinclair.