By Scott Taylor
Rhian Brewster scored twice and Harry Wilson grabbed three assists as Liverpool U23s returned to winning ways by thrashing Reading 5-1 at Adams Park on Monday evening.
Joe Gomez put Mike Garrity’s side ahead in the opening stages before Brewster doubled their lead in the 34th minute only for Joe Mendes to half the deficit from the penalty spot.
Brewster restored Liverpool’s two-goal lead before half-time, but second half goals from Ben Woodburn and Nathan Phillips sealed an emphatic win for the U23s.
Head Coach Garrity made six changes from the side that beat West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League Cup last Tuesday, with a key number of first-team players featuring.
Marko Grujic played for the first time since his muscular injury whilst there were also outings for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kevin Stewart and Woodburn.
Despite 8 of the starting 11 having played for the first-team this season, Liverpool had to thank Kamil Grabara for keeping the scores level after he denied Mendes in the early stages.
However, the Reds responded when Wilson forced Royals goalkeeper George Legg into a full-stretch stop from just outside the penalty area.
The Welsh winger then played a pivotal role in the visitors’ opener.
His corner found Gomez, who recently made his own comeback from a long-term injury, and he emphatically volleyed it into the roof of the net.
Liverpool continued to dominate, with Sheyi Ojo hitting the post after neat play from Alexander-Arnold down the right flank.
The full-back later admitted that he had ‘surprised himself’ with his performance as he continued to impress and establish himself as a genuine competitor for Nathaniel Clyne in the first-team.
Shortly after Wilson threatened a second goal, but he fired narrowly wide. There was cause for concern when the Reds had to be indebted to defender Phillips, who cleared Yakou Meite’s shot off the line on the half-hour mark.
This proved to be a turning point in this game as 16-year-old Brewster made it 2-0 four minutes later, firing home a right-footed effort after another assist from Wilson.
As the saying goes, ‘you are most vulnerable when you score’, and this was the case for Liverpool, as Randall brought down Mendes in the area to concede a penalty which he converted.
However, the boot was on the other foot moments later, when Reading conceded their third after halving the deficit.
Ojo again hit the woodwork, but much to Brewster’s delight, he received an early birthday present by volleying in the rebound to put the Reds in a strong position at half-time.
Garrity then made his first change of the game as Grujic was replaced after 60 minutes in his first game since November after a series of injuries, with Matty Virtue taking his place.
In the 66th minute, Liverpool added a fourth, with Wilson setting up Woodburn, who clinically finished playing in a new role in midfield, with Liverpool blowing away their counterparts with their pace on the break.
The young Welsh forward, 17, has made six first-team appearances this season, and he tested Legg with a long-range strike from approximately 25 yards out
Phillips then curled in the Reds’ fifth of the game in injury time, as Liverpool responded to their defeat last time out with a convincing win to move 11 points behind the leaders Everton.
Despite the convincing win, Liverpool pressed throughout, and with so many having had a taste of first-team football, the hunger and desired showed, with some beautiful football at times.
Wilson, Woodburn, Ojo, Alexander-Arnold and Brewster all threatened with none of them looking out of place when training with the first-team which may give Klopp some food for thought in the coming seasons.
Liverpool face a tough test in their next game, when they host fifth-placed Chelsea at Prenton Park, with the Blues just four points behind Garrity’s side.
Liverpool U23s: Grabara; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Gomez, Randall; Stewart, Grujic (Virtue 60’), Woodburn; Wilson, Brewster (Gomes 75’), Ojo.