By Scott Taylor
Madger Gomes come off the bench to score the winner in extra-time as Liverpool U21s progressed to the last 16 of the U21 Premier Cup with a 4-3 win over Sunderland on Tuesday evening. The Reds eased to a 3-0 lead at half-time courtesy of a brace from Jerome Sinclair, and a goal from Joe Maguire. However, Sunderland responded to make it 3-3 thanks to a Ethan Robson strike before a brace from Danny Graham completed the comeback. However, Madger Gomes won it in the 111th minute and despite having Maguire sent off in the closing stages, Liverpool held on to progress.
Liverpool started the came on the front foot despite facing a Sunderland which consisted of first-team players Graham, Liam Bridcutt and Adam Matthews. Michael Beale’s side then took a deserved lead in the 24th minute of the game. Alex O’Hanlon’s cross from a Joao Teixeira corner was met by the head of Daniel Cleary, but he was denied by a strong save from Sunderland goalkeeper Maksymilian Stryjek. However, the rebound fell invitingly for Maguire, who headed home to give Liverpool the lead.
The Reds did not stop there, as Teixeira and Sinclair both had chances to make it 2-0. However, in the 38th minute, the Reds did double their lead. Teixeira played a perfectly weighted through ball to Jack Dunn, who’s cross was turned in by Sinclair. Just three minutes later, the Dunn and Sinclair again combined, with the latter scoring his second and Liverpool’s third of the evening.
Beale’s side came up against a rejuvinated Sunderland team in the second half, and the Black Cats showed great spirit to get their way back into the game. Ethan Robson pulled a goal back in the 51st minute when he converted Matthew’s cross. Just six minutes later, it was 3-2, when Graham showed his experience to fire past Fulton from 20 yards after a good counter-attacking move from the hosts.
Liverpool almost restored their two-goal lead but Sinclair was denied his hat-trick by a great save from Stryjek. The Sunderland goalkeeper then made the Reds rue that missed chance as he set up Graham to make it 3-3 with 30 minutes still left in the tie. The home side almost completed a dramatic turnaround but Charalambos Mavrias missed two very good opportunities when the Greece international could have done better.
There was still time for Jack Dunn to almost win it for Liverpool in injury-time, but his curling effort went narrowly wide, and so it went to extra-time. Liverpool regrouped in the first half and were determined to find a winner. First Pedro Chirivella had his shot cleared off the line before Joao Teixeira’s effort went inches past the post. However, they did eventually grab the winner. Madger Gomes raced onto Chirivella’s through ball before showing great skill and firing under Stryjek to win it for the Reds.
A bitter-sweet ending for Liverpool came when Maguire was shown his marching orders for a late foul on Rees Greenwood but the ten men held on to progress to the last 16, and avenge a 1-0 defeat to Sunderland earlier in the season.
Liverpool XI: Fulton; Whelan, Cleary, Maguire, Hart; Chirivella; Virtue, O’Hanlon (Trickett-Smith 110′); Teixeira; Dunn (Madger Gomes 101′), Sinclair (Brewitt 120′).
By Scott Taylor