By Scott Taylor
Liverpool U21s ended a run of four consecutive victories as they suffered a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday afternoon. Ashley Smith Brown had given the visitors a first half lead, before goals from Brandon Barker and David Faupala sealed the victory for Manchester City. The defeat means Liverpool stay in eighth, three points above the relegation zone, while Manchester City move up to third.
With many of the U21 players expected to play some part in Tuesday night’s FA Cup replay at West Ham, Michael Beale fielded a young side which included U18s captain Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was making his debut at this level. Despite this, it was Liverpool who had the first opportunity of the game. With less than two minutes on the clock, midfielder Matty Virtue fired over from long range. Ryan Kent and Jerome Sinclair will both be hoping to be included in the first team squad for the FA Cup replay at West Ham on Tuesday, and they combined, but Kent had his effort blocked.
In the 18th minute, the visitors started to grow back into the game, with Angel Tasende’s deflected cross denied by Adam Bogdan. The former Bolton shot-stopper was in action moments later, doing well to stop a George Glendon shot after the City striker was through on goal. City were now on top in this tie and looked most likely to break the deadlock, especially after Brandon Barker and Bersant Celina had efforts saved by the increasingly busy Bogdan.
The pressure eventually told nine minutes more half-time as Ashley Smith-Brown scored a well-taken solo goal, firing home from inside the penalty area. The goal ended a run of three consecutive clean sheet for the Reds, having conceded their last goal in the 2-1 win at Southampton on 11 January. Liverpool responded very well after half-time,with Kent and Sinclair both having opportunities, with the latter firing over the crossbar from close-range.
Despite this, City doubled their lead in the 59th minute when former Villareal starlet Aleix Garcia found Barker, and the youngster converted past Bodgan to put the visitors firmly in control. Things almost went from bad to worse for Michael Beale’s side as the game approached the final 20 minutes, as Sinan Bytyqi hit the post from a yard out after Bogdan parried an effort, and Garcia curled a free-kick just wide.
Liverpool were always searching for a way back into the tie and brought on the returning Madger Gomes in place on Alexander-Arnold, who made his first-team debut in August. Gomes has been out since the start of December with an ankle injury and was looking to provide the creative spark in the Liverpool midfieder. In the 71st minute, Sinclair somehow headed wide from close-range before Irish midfielder Alex O’Hanlon dragging his shot wide after a good counter-attack. Another counter-attacking move saw City claim all three points in the 89th minute when David Faupala wrapping up the victory with a fine finish.
Liverpool will look to get back to winning ways when they face Irish side Sligo Rovers in a friendly on Wednesday.
Liverpool XI: Bogdan; Alexander-Arnold (Gomes 75′), Cleary, Maguire, Hart (Brewitt 45′); Virtue, O’Hanlon; Kent, Lennon (Phillips 45′), Wilson; Sinclair.