By Scott Taylor
Ben Woodburn scored twice in five minutes but Liverpool U23s suffered a 5-4 defeat on penalties to Brentford after the original tie ended 2-2. Herson Alves and second half substitute Danny Parish scored either side of half-time to put the hosts 2-0 ahead at Griffin Park, but two goals in quick succession from Welshman Woodburn levelled the scores. The game went to a penalty shoot-out but Joe Maguire missed the resulting spot-kick in the shoot-out as Michael Beale’s side suffered an agonising defeat in West London.
Liverpool started brightly, and should have taken the lead in the opening stages, but Toni Gomes headed Brooks Lennon’s cross just wide with Bees goalkeeper Jack Bonham beaten.
Brentford grew back into the game with Justin Shaibu heading over from close-range before Caoimhin Kelleher produced a strong reaction save to deny Jan Holldack’s shot.
The hosts momentum paid dividends midway through the first half when they took the lead when Alves controlled Westbrooke’s lofted pass and fired beyond the reach of Kelleher.
Brentford doubled their lead ten minutes after half-time when Kelleher was pressed by Bees duo Holldack and Danny Parish, which led to the Irishman making a costly error and Parish passed it into an empty net moments after coming on.
Despite going 2-0 down, Liverpool recovered and showed intent in the final third. Yan Dhanda’s deflected effort was parried by Bonham and Cameron Brannagan hit the follow-up into the side netting.
Three chances in as many minutes followed from Dhanda, Woodburn and Tom Brewitt as the young Reds searched for a way back into the game.
That goal came with just 13 minutes of normal time remaining when Woodburn’s tame effort bounced over Bonham to give his side a lifeline in the game at Griffin Park.
Woodburn, fresh from international duty with Wales U19s then grabbed a deserved equaliser five minutes later as the forward continued his early season form with a powerful drive into the bottom corner.
Liverpool brought on goalkeeper Andy Firth for the shootout, and the youngster saved a Westbrooke penalty which set the game up for the Reds, but midfielder Brad Garton missed the next penalty as their victory chances went begging.
Brentford then made the most of the miss, by going 5-4 ahead, before Maguire’s spot-kick was saved by Bonham to seal the victory for the Championship side.
Liverpool U23s: Kelleher (Firth 90’); Whelan, Brewitt, Ilori (Lewis 46’), Maguire; Virtue, A.Phillips; Lennon (Woodburn 62’), Brannagan, Dhanda (Garton 82’); Gomes (N.Phillips 46’)