By Scott Taylor
Jerome Sinclair scored his 12th goal of the season as Liverpool U21s drew 1-1 with arch rivals Manchester United at Prenton Park on Friday evening. Michael Beale’s side, which consisted of Martin Skrtel and Jordon Ibe, took the lead in the 50th minute when Ryan Kent played in Sinclair to poke home. James Weir then equalised for the visitors with 18 minutes left as Liverpool held on for their fourth draw of the season.
Beale fielded a very strong side for the game at Tranmere Rovers, with every single player having played for the first team in recent seasons. Warren Joyce’s Red Devils also fielded an experienced line-up, with Paddy McNair, Antonio Valencia and Adnan Januzaj all featuring.
It was the Belgian Januzaj who created the first chance of the match in the 13th minute of the game. His free-kick was fired straight at the Liverpool wall, before his follow-up smashed the post and was cleared to safety.
Exactly 13 minutes after that, Liverpool responded, but Cameron Brannagan’s shot flew over the crossbar. Then Sheyi Ojo, fresh from his hat-trick in the 3-2 win over Middlesbrough, went on a mazy run and fired inches wide to end the half on top.
Beale’s side started the second half like they began the first, and their momentum was rewarded five minutes after the interval. Kent found Sinclair with a through ball and the striker chipped the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to give the young Reds the lead.
A minute later, Liverpool were inches away from doubling their lead, but Ibe could not get on the end of an Ojo cross which fizzed across the penalty area. Kent then had a chance of his own but it was parried by the visiting ‘keeper.
Manchester United eventually grew into the half with Andreas Pereira forcing a fine save from Danny Ward. To add more balance to the side, Liverpool brought on midfielder Alex O’Hanlon for the final 20 minutes of the tie as they looked to see out the game. Despite this, it was the Irishman who had another chance to put the tie to bed, but he could not convert his opportunity.
That proved to be pivotal turning point in the game as Manchester United levelled proceedings with a simple close-range finish. Ojo then almost repeated his antics from the win over Middlesbrough, but his late chance was saved as Liverpool could not find the all important winner.
The Reds rise to seventh in the U21 Premier League, whilst Manchester United stay in second, one point behind leaders Sunderland. Beale’s side next travel to West Ham on Wednesday evening, and Ojo will be hoping to repeat his brace there from last season.
Liverpool XI: Ward; Randall (Whelan 76′), Skrtel (Maguire 60′), Caulker, Smith; Chirivella, Brannagan; Ibe (O’Hanlon 69′), Kent, Ojo; Sinclair.