On a mild Hallows Eve at Langtree Park, St Helens, Liverpool U21s defeated Tottenham Hotspur by two goals to one.
A reasonable crowd resisted the urge to daub themselves in fake blood or go around knocking on doors asking for sweets, and were rewarded with a decent game of football, as well as some encouraging displays from Liverpool’s young hopefuls.
Jordans Rossiter and Williams were back in the team after making the senior side’s League Cup squad on Tuesday, and the pair acted as a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 formation for the Reds.
Ahead of them was the impressive number 10 Ryan Kent, who caused problems for the opposition defence throughout the game from his advanced position behind striker Jerome Sinclair.
Kent had two early efforts on goal, one of which was saved, with the other going narrowly past the angle of the goal frame. His third effort, however, saw Liverpool take the lead. He nicked the ball from an opposition player, and a tricky driving run saw him brought down unfairly on the edge of the area. He stepped up to dispatch the free-kick into the right corner of the goal, giving Tottenham’s 16-year-old Australian ‘keeper Tom Glover little chance of making a save.
Liverpool’s own goalkeeper Danny Ward was vocal throughout – one of the benefits of attending these reserve games is that you can hear the instructions being shouted – and he assisted his outfield team-mates both in and out of possession.
Ward’s goalkeeping skills were called into action midway through the first half, producing a great one-on-one save from Alex McQueen’s shot as Tottenham began to pose some danger in attack. They got the equalising goal their play merited just before half time, as Will Miller eventually slotted past Ward from a dangerous ball into the box.
The Liverpool goalkeeper’s organisation and communication were traits which seemed instilled in those players making up the spine of the team. Welshman Lloyd Jones called the line, with assistance from his Irish centre-back partner Daniel Cleary, whilst Rossiter and Williams directed from the centre of the park.
Williams showed his versatility playing a great through ball to Harry Wilson in the first half, then comfortably dropping back to centre-back later in the game when Cleary was substituted.
Liverpool’s winning goal came in the second half as star player Kent played the ball in to the onrushing Rossiter, and it would have been rude of the midfielder not to score.
Spurs rallied late in the game and were camped in and around Danny Ward’s area for the final minutes of the game, but some good blocks and defensive unity saw Liverpool see out the game and hold on to the win.
Tactically the team set out in the 4-2-3-1 formation, which is a system much derided when used in the first team, but seems to work well in the U21s. Indeed, this formation looked good at times during the League Cup tie against Middlesborough, with one of Rossiter or Williams partnering Lucas Leiva.
The organisation within the system at this level is something the first team should take a few pointers from, and the team leadership of Lloyd Jones and Danny Ward is to be admired regardless of their individual performance on the day.
Jerome Sinclair provided a tricky, pacey, Sturridge-esque outlet up front, but he was kept relatively quiet despite showing glimpses of skill. However, he allowed Ryan Kent to pull the strings behind him, with Brad Smith widening the pitch on the left. The left footed Harry Wilson looked to cut inside from his position on the right, leaving space for right full-back Kevin Stewart on the overlap.