By Scott Taylor
Curtis Jones scored a brace on his return from injury as Liverpool U18s secured their first win of the Premier League play-off stage with a 3-0 win at home to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
George Johnston put the hosts ahead in the fifth minute in poor conditions at the Kirkby Academy before Jones doubled the Reds’ lead with a header in the 22nd minute.
The England youth international then scored a wonderful solo goal to seal the points midway through the second half as Liverpool pick up their first win of the play-off campaign.
Head Coach Neil Critchley made three changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Manchester United with Danny Atherton, Okera Simmonds and Jones coming into the side.
Caoimhin Kelleher and Yan Dhanda made way whilst Glen McAuley was on international duty with Republic of Ireland U17s.
Liverpool’s early opener came from a corner, as Jones’ delivery was not dealt with and the ball fell to Johnston, with the centre back producing a striker’s finish to put his side ahead.
The defender, who is no stranger to scoring from set-pieces this season, controlled the loose ball with his back to goal and fired the way into the bottom right corner.
Jones then almost had a goal for himself, but his effort was straight at the Blackburn Rovers’ goalkeeper.
However, the England youngster did get a goal midway through the first-half. After Adam Lewis was initially brought down, Abdi Sharif latched onto the loose ball with the referee playing the advantage.
His pass fell to Neco Williams, and the Welshman’s inviting cross was met by the head of Jones, and after bursting into space, the midfielder nodded his effort across goal and inot the far corner to extend Liverpool’s lead.
The midfielder, playing in a more adventurous role on the left side, was causing Blackburn all sorts of problems, and had efforts either side of half-time.
Despite hitting the post in the second half, the 16-year-old got what his performance deserved with the third and final goal, taken in brilliant circumstances.
Conor Masterson stopped a Blackburn attack and Liverpool broke with Lewis and Jones bursting forward after neat play from stand-in captain Liam Coyle.
Jones played a one-two with Lewis and after receiving it in the area, he evaded two challenges with quick feet and improvisation before composing himself and slotting in into the far corner with the side of his boot.
Critchely’s side could have added a gloss to the scoreline in the closing stages, with Rafa Camacho and Bobby Adekanye coming on the bench and causing problems.
Abdi Sharif, playing in a new midfield role, was inches away from emulating Xabi Alonso with a goal from just inside the opposition half only for his effort to go narrowly over.
Liverpool will now have a two-week break before returning to competitive action when they face West Ham at Kirkby Academy on 1 April.
Liverpool U18s: Atherton; Williams, Masterson, Johnston, Glennon; Coyle, Sharif; Simmonds (Blair 88′), Lewis, Jones (Adekanye 80′); Millar (Camacho 76′).