By Scott Taylor
Jay Rodriguez scored a hat-trick as Liverpool U21s suffered a 5-0 thrashing by Southampton at Chester’s Vauxhall Lookers Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Jake Hesketh gave the visitors a fourth minute lead before Rodriguez scored his second before half-time. Josh Sims made it 3-0 in the opening stages of the second half before England international Rodriguez scored two more to complete his hat-trick and a memorable win for Southampton.
Michael Beale made four changes from the side that were knocked out of the U21 Premier Cup semi-finals at West Ham last week. Martin Skrtel, Jon Flanagan and Sheyi Ojo were all in the first-team squad for their game against Southampton whilst Ryan McLaughlin returned to the bench. Tiago Ilori, Jose Enrique, Jordon Ibe and U18s striker Toni Gomes were all given a start.
Despite having an experienced line-up, it was Southampton who took the lead in the fourth minute, Hesketh winning the ball in the Reds’ penalty area and firing beyond the reach of Adam Bogdan. This triggered a Liverpool response as Ibe forced Paulo Gazzaniga into a strong save before Toni Gomes went close to scoring his first U21s goal.
Just as Liverpool were starting to regain a foothold in the game, Southampton counter-attacked, and Rodriguez made it 2-0, with a fine finish in the 33rd minuten as the half ended with the visitors comfortably ahead.
Martin Hunter’s side made it 3-0 in the 47th minute, when another Liverpool mistake allowed Sims to regain possession before lobbing the ball over Bogdan to all but seal the result for the visitors.
Beale sent on both Alex O’Hanlon and McLaughlin in search of goals, but his side were very vulernable on the counter. Another breakaway from Southampton resulted in the fourth goal of the game, Rodriguez firing past Bogdan despite the Hungarian getting a hand to his effort.
The visitors signed off a memorable afternoon at the Lookers Vauxhall Stadium when Rodriguez poked the ball home to complete his hat-trick. The goal was given despite appeals that Bogdan was obstructed in the build-up.
Despite the scoreline, Liverpool ended the game on top, with Brannagan forcing a good save out of Paulo Gazzaniga. It was also the second time in five matches where Liverpool have failed to score in an U21 Premier League game. Their ninth defeat of the season means they slip to ninth in the league, seven points clear of the relegation zone. They next travel to Leicester City on 4 April looking for their their first win in four matches.
Liverpool U21s: Bogdan; Randall, Ilori, Maguire, Enrique; Chirivella, Brannagan; Ibe (McLaughlin 70′), Teixeira (O’Hanlon 68′), Kent; Gomes (Hart 68′).