By Scott Taylor
Harry Wilson scored an exquisite back-heeled finish, but Liverpool U23s were held to a 1-1 draw at Manchester United at Leigh Sports Village on Tuesday evening. The U23s captain, 19, grabbed his ninth goal of the season in his 15th appearance for Michael Beale’s side, who went ahead in the 18th minute of the game. Josh Harrop grabbed the equaliser for the hosts in the opening five minutes of the second half, ending the young Reds’ winning run in Premier League 2.
Beale made two changes from their last competitive outing, a 3-0 win at home to Ipswich at the start of the month, with Kamil Grabara replacing Caoimhin Kelleher in goal.
The other change saw Ben Woodburn replaced by summer signing Marko Grujic, who became the 41st player to be used by the U23s this season.
Despite fielding a strong line-up, it was Manchester United who had the first chance of the game, with Matthew Willock curling his 20-yard effort marginally wide of Grabara’s right-hand post.
However, the visitors grew back into it with the influential Danny Ings supplying Wilson, but United defender Sadiq El Fitouri denying Grujic at the back post.
Moments later, Liverpool’s presence in the final third was felt when Wilson put his side ahead in emphatic fashion.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross fell to Ings at the back post, but the striker’s header hit the woodwork before falling to Connor Randall, but his follow-up was blocked.
The ball fell straight to Pedro Chirivella and his low drive was flicked in by Wilson to wrong foot goalkeeper Sam Johnstone to score his ninth goal of the season.
Johnstone wasn’t to de beaten again in the half, as the goalkeeper did well to deny Tiago Ilori, before his team-mate Devonte Redmond hit the crossbar against the run of play as a frantic half ended with the Reds ahead.
Chirivella played a huge part in the opening goal, and the Spanish midfielder was heavily involved in Man United’s equaliser, as his challenge on Scott McTominay inside the area was penalised.
Harrop then stepped up and made sure that Grabara couldn’t repeat his penalty heroics at Chelsea, and was one of very few players to score from a spot-kick in the last week of football.
After grabbing the equaliser, the game turned into a carbon-copy of the first-team’s fixture just 24 hours earlier, as Manchester United sat back and frustrated the visitors.
However, Beale’s side did create chances and could have found a winner. Firstly, Kevin Stewart fired wide before Ings went close on two occasions as he couldn’t add to his seven goals this season.
The Reds continued to knock on the door, but United remained stubborn with a combination of the hosts’ defence and Johnstone keeping Liverpool at bay.
Grujic missed a free header before Ings saw his effort saved by the influential Johnstone in the final minute of stoppage time, as Liverpool were frustrated with just a draw.
Liverpool return to Premier League 2 action when they face Merseyside rivals Everton on Sunday.
Liverpool U23s: Grabara, Alexander-Arnold, Randall, Ilori, Sakho, Stewart, Wilson (Brannagan), Chirivella, Ings, Grujic, Ejaria (Woodburn).