By Scott Taylor
Luis Longstaff scored a last minute equaliser as Liverpool U18s began their play-off campaign with a 2-2 draw at Mancheser United on Friday evening.
Glen McAuley bravely put Neil Critchley’s side ahead in the 21st minute, but the game changed on the half-hour mark when Adam Lewis was sent off for a professional foul.
A quickfire brace from Aidan Barlow completed the turnaround for the hosts, but Longstaff tapped in an equaliser to seal a point for the visitors.
After ending Manchester City’s domestic unbeaten run in their last outing, Liverpool made one change from that game, with Yan Dhanda replacing Okera Simmonds on the wing.
It was the Reds who started brightly, with winger Josh Bohui causing problems for the Liverpool backline, who were indebted to Caoimhin Kelleher in goal.
However, Liam Millar’s burst of pace down the left wing resulted in a ball to McAuley, who threw his body in front of the advancing Max Johnstone to poke home an opener.
The goal proved to be bittersweet for Critchley and his coaching staff as Canadian Millar was forced off with an injury and was replaced by Simmonds shortly after.
Derbies between these two sides have produced several scraps and red cards, and this was no different for the U18s, as Lewis was dismissed for a nasty challenge on Indy Boonen.
A fracas followed, with a few players lucky to receive only a yellow card for their conduct in the incident as Liverpool held on to re-group at half-time.
United made a bold change at the interval as forward Angel Gomes replaced defender Max Dunne, and the intent showed as Kelleher was forced into action on two occasions.
Ethan Hamilton went close with the Irish ‘keeper producing a low save before Kelleher denied Zak Dearnly in emphatic fashion in quick succession as Liverpool hung on.
However, in the 79th minute, Kelleher and his Liverpool defence were eventually breached when Barlow slotted home after initally being denied a minute before the goal.
The Man United substitute turned the game on its head six minutes later when he blasted in his and his side’s second and look to have sealed the win for his side.
However, Liverpool’s never-say-die spirit told as Dhanda’s free-kick was forced across the face of goal by Masterson and Longstaff bundled the ball home with less than a minute to go.
Liverpool start their seven-game play-off campaign with a draw, and will be looking to stay in the title hunt when they host Blackburn Rovers on 18 March.
Liverpool XI: Kelleher; Williams, Masterson, Johnston, Glennon; Coyle, Sharif; Dhanda, Lewis, Millar (Simmonds 24); McAuley (Longstaff 80).
Manchester United XI: Johnstone, Tanner, O’Connor, Warren, Dunne (Gomes 45), Whelan, Boonen, Hamilton, Burkart (Barlow 64), Buffonge (Deranley 64).