By Scott Taylor
Jerome Sinclair scored twice for Liverpool as they came from behind to beat Brighton and Hove Albion 4-3 in the quarter-finals of the U21 Premier Cup. Brighton took an early lead in the eighth minute when Tom Dallison found the back of the net, before Jose Enrique equalised for the hosts four minutes later. James Tilley then scored either side of half-time to give the visitors a 3-1 lead, but Ryan McLaughlin and Sinclair scored in quick succession to level the tie. Sinclair, 19, then scored the winner in extra-time to send the hosts into the semi-finals of the U21 Premier Cup.
Michael Beale fielded a strong side which included Adam Bogdan, Tiago Ilori and Cameron Brannagan, but it was Sheyi Ojo who had the first chance of the game for Liverpool in the fourth minute. However, he was denied by a strong save from Brighton goalkeeper Christian Walton. The former Wolves loanee was then left to rue that missed chance as the visitors took the lead four minutes later. Dessie Hutchinson’s free-kick was not cleared by the Reds allowing defender Dallison to head past Bogdan to give Brighton the lead. However, their joy was short-lived as Enrique scored a rare goal with a deflected effort to equalise in the 12th minute.
The Spanish defender went from hero to zero less than ten minutes later, when he brought down Brighton’s Jonah Ayunga in the penalty area, and Tilley sent Bogdan the wrong way. Both Ojo and Brooks Lennon had chances but couldn’t convert their chances as they half ended with the visitors in front.
The second half started as the first half ended, with Pedro Chirivella going close. Despite this, Brighton grew into the game, with Bogdan producing a fine save to deny Jess Starkey. Bogdan could do nothing about Tilley’s effort just before the hour mark as the Brighton star grabbed his second of the game to put his side firmly in control.
Beale then brought on Northern Ireland defender McLaughlin and moments after coming on, he made an immediate impact, firing home Enrique’s cross to pull a goal back. Lennon was then replaced by Sinclair in the 75th minute, and the striker, who was linked with a move to Watford in January, equalised with his first touch of the match to send the game into extra-time.
In the 93rd minute, both McLaughlin and Sinclair linked up to put the young Reds ahead for the first time in the match. McLaughlin beat the Brighton full-back before delivering a cross into Sinclair, who clinically finished. He could have got his hat-trick in the second half of extra-time, but his effort hit the post. However, Liverpool held out to qualify for the semi-finals of the U21 Premier Cup.
Liverpool XI: Bogdan; Randall, Ilori, Enrique, Maguire; Virtue (McLaughlin 63′), Chirivella; Ojo, Brannagan, Kent (Hart 105′); Lennon (Sinclair 75′).
By Scott Taylor