By Scott Taylor

Ben Woodburn scored twice and claimed an assist as Liverpool U18s started 2016 on a positive note with a 3-0 victory over arch-rivals Manchester United at the Kirkby Academy. The Wales U17 international put the Reds ahead in the opening ten minutes, before he doubled their lead in the 36th minute. Woodburn then turned provider for Yan Dhanda, who came off the bench to round off the result in the 78th minute.

Neil Critchley’s side started the much brighter of the two teams, and could have gone ahead in the first five minutes. Conor Masterson, who was on the bench for the first team’s FA Cup tie at Exeter last night, returned to Merseyside and headed Adam Phillips’ free-kick towards goal only for it to be cleared off the line. However, just five minutes later, the Reds did get the opener, courtesy on a flowing team move rounded off by a spectacular overhead kick from Woodburn.

Liverpool went inches away from making it 2-0 shortly after, when his effort struck the post. The visitors then counter attacked and hit the woodwork themselves when James Dunne’s header struck Shamal George’s crossbar. They were left to rue that mistake when the Reds when Woodburn netted his and the team’s second of the match, getting on the end of a cross to Trent Alexander-Arnold to double his side’s lead.

Toni Gomes, who is the club’s leading scorer in the Academy with eight goals, had a chance to score his ninth of the season, but fired over the crossbar just before the break. In the second half, Dhanda, who signed a professional contract with Liverpool, came off the bench to head home from Woodburn cross, with another assist for the Welshman. After having to move to one of the training pitches at the Academy, the Reds complete a league double over their rivals, after winning 4-0 in October.

Critchley’s side turn their attention to the FA Youth Cup, where they host Cardiff City at Langtree Park in the fourth round on Thursday evening.

Liverpool XI: George; Alexander-Arnold, Masterson, Parker, Owens; Phillips (Coyle), Kane; Woodburn, Alves (Brimmer), Ejaria; Gomes (Dhanda).

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