By Scott Taylor
Toni Gomes scored his second hat-trick of the season as Liverpool U18s emphatically beat Sunderland 5-0 at the Kirkby Academy on Tuesday afternoon. The striker, 17, followed up his treble against Middlesborough earlier in the season with another three goals to take his league tally to nine for the season. Ben Woodburn and Ovie Ejaria were also on target for Neil Critchley’s side, who have now qualified for the U18s play-offs.
With central defender Corey Whelan ruled out for the season, Critchley decided to start with captain Trent Alexander-Arnold at centre back instead of Michel Parker. Yan Dhanda started on the bench whilst Callum Nicholas was given some valuable minutes as he steps up his recovery from injury.
Liverpool had a phenomenal first half, with Ejaria and then a Gomes brace firing the Reds into a 3-0 lead after the first 45 minutes of action. Wales U17 captain Woodburn continued where his team-mates left off in the second half with a fine finish, heading beyond the reach of Sunderland goalkeeper Cameron McCulloch.
Liverpool midfielder Paulo Alves then set up Gomes to complete his hat-trick with a fine finish. The striker is now the leading scorer in both the U18s and the U21s with 12 goals in all competitions this season, as the Reds finished the first phase of fixtures in third place, five points behind the leaders Manchester City.
They will now go into the U18 play-offs to determine who wins the Premier League title. Everton, Man City and Blackburn will join the Reds in the final stage from the North Division, whilst Chelsea, Reading, Fulham and West Ham are the representatives from the South Division. Each team will play each other once and whoever has the most points will win the Barclays U18 Premier League.
Liverpool turn their attention to the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals when they travel to teh Emirates to play Arsenal on the 4th March. Kick-Off is at 7pm.
Liverpool XI: George; Lewis (Johnston), Masterson, Alexander-Arnold, Owens; Coyle, Kane; Woodburn (Dhanda), Alves, Ejaria (Nicholas); Gomes.