By Scott Taylor
Toni Gomes scored twice as Liverpool U23s ended the calender year with a thrilling 4-4 draw at home to Wigan Athletic at the Kirkby Academy on Friday afternoon.
Sheyi Ojo opened the scoring before Wigan equalised through Sam Cosgrove but goals from Gomes an Harry Wilson gave Liverpool a commanding 3-1 lead.
The visitors pulled a goal back before half time and then added a further two goals to complete an unlikely turnaround.
However, Portuguese youth international Gomes then saved Liverpool’s blushes in the closing stages as 2016 came to an end in thrilling circumstances.
Interim Head Coach Mike Garrity made six changes from the side that beat Chester last week, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria, Kevin Stewart and Ben Woodburn with the first team.
The other changes saw Mamadou Sakho drop out as rumours on his future speculate whilst Cameron Brannagan picked up ankle ligament damage.
Liverpool started the better of the two sides and despite an early penalty scare, the hosts took the lead with Ojo diverting in his third in four games.
The Reds wereahead for just a minute, as Cosgrove slotted in an equaliser, latching onto the loose ball after Shamal George denied an earlier attack.
The end-to-end start of the game continued and Liverpool were back in front in the 12th minute, with Gomes putting his side back in front with a spectacular backheel.
Garrity’s men had two further chances to assert their dominance with Gomes going close before Wilson’s corner was awkwardly dealt with by the Wigan defence.
Juanma and Tiago Ilori also went close as Liverpool cotinued to knock on the door in order to add to their marginal lead.
They eventually broke the Wigan defence in the 30th minute, with Wilson volleying home Chirivella’s cross for his 14th goal in all competitions this season.
The drama in the first half didn’t end there. Wigan took advantage of a defensive mistake from Ilori and Cosgrove pounced to head in his and his side’s second of the game.
Liverpool were dealt an injury blow ten minutes into the second period, as full-back Juanma hobbled off with Kane Lewis deputising.
Wigan grew into the game and almost equalised only to be denied by an inspired George, who looked to end 2016 on a high after a injury-hit year.
Garrity made two further changes in the 63rd minute with Nathaniel Phillips and Paolo Alves replacing Ilori and Chirivella as the Reds’ coach gave opportunities to his fringe players.
The pair, and the rest of their team-mates didn’t settle into the game in the second period and Wigan soon levelled.
A Latics corner was met at the far post by defender Tom Hilton, who drilled in his side’s third.
A sense of De-Ja-Vu followed soon after as another Wigan corner was met by Hilton, and the same outcome followed, with the visitors taking a surprise 4-3 lead.
Liverpool pushed for an equaliser as substitute Alves smashed the post but their reward came in the closing stages with Gomes producing a piece of individual brilliance.
The striker skipped a few challenges and lofted the ball over the on-rushing goalkeeper to draw the tie level, but the overriding emotion was disappointment at full-time.
Liverpool will begin their 2016 campaign with a friendly against Welsh outfit Bangor City on 4 January.
Liverpool XI: George; Whelan, Ilori (Phillips 63′), Gomez, Juanma (Lewis 55′); Williams, Chirivella (Alves 63′), Virtue; Wilson, Gomes, Ojo.