By Scott Taylor
Conor Masterson scored his first goal of the season but Liverpool U18s lost 2-1 to Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals at the Emirates Stadium on Friday evening. Stephy Mavididi put the Gunners ahead in the 51st minute before Irish youngster Masterson equalised for Neil Critchley’s side moments later. However, Arsenal quickly regained the lead through Kaylen Hinds and held on as Liverpool exited the FA Youth Cup at the quarter-final stage.
Despite an evening opening to the game, it was Arsenal who came closest to scoring in the sixth minute. Hinds and Mavididi linked up well for the hosts, but the latter was denied by Liverpool goalkeeper Shamal George.
The Reds responded with two chances in quick succession. Firstly, former Arsenal midfielder Ovie Ejaria fired over the bar on his return to North London before Adam Phillips forced a good save from Hugo Keto. These chances were a rarity for the Reds, as Arsenal continued to apply pressure on the Liverpool goal.
Hinds had a shot blocked by the returning Corey Whelan, who was sidelined for 6 weeks because of an ankle problem, before Ben Sheaf fired straight at George as the first half ended with Arsenal on top.
It was a contrasting start to the second half, as Liverpool went closest to breaking the deadlock. Brooks Lennon did well on the right wing before setting up Toni Gomes, who was unlucky not to score his 13th goal of the season, as he headed wide from close range. Gomes and his Liverpool team-mates were left to rue that chance as Mavididi slotted the ball beyond George six minutes into the second half.
Just three minutes later, Liverpool equalised. Arsenal’s defence failed to clear a corner, and after Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ejaria, Ben Woodburn and Herbie Kane all had shots blocked, the ball fell to Masterson who cooly converted into the far corner.
In the 58th minute, Arsenal were again back in front. Jeff Reine-Adelaide twisted and turned before finding Tyrell Robinson, and the left-back produced a pinpoint cross for Hinds at the far post to score the third goal in seven minutes.
Arsenal were looking to put the game out of sight and in the 63rd minute, Shamal George did brilliantly to deny Mavididi his second goal of the game. The goalkeeper somehow tipped the Arsenal forward’s header wide after an inviting ball into the box from Hinds.
Further chances fell to Sheaf and then to Donyell Malen, but the game remained posied at 2-1. However, the Reds could not force extra time in the closing stages and miss out on the chance to play Manchester City in the semi-final. However, it will all be good experience for the youngsters as they look to win the U18 Premier League, starting with a game against Reading on 19 March.
Liverpool XI: George; Alexander-Arnold, Masterson, Whelan, Owens (Lewis 80′); Kane, Phillips; Lennon, Ejaria, Woodburn (Dhanda 80′); Gomes.