Brendan Rodgers wanted consistency. Consistency through the ranks. From youth teams to the first team, he wanted the path and the performances to reflect each other. Well, it’s safe to say that right now, that’s happening with bells on.
Liverpool Under-21s played average against Everton, like the Liverpool first-team have done in the two games previous, with the exception being that tonight, the youngsters couldn’t hold on. Couldn’t hold out. Against a fierce Everton team, they couldn’t keep hold of the lead.
Starting brightly, both teams played like they knew this was a derby game. A first, booming tackle from Everton resulted in a classic growl from the Everton fans who had attended the game (of whom there were a great deal).
The competitive nature of the game was good to see. The first-team derbies of late have become footballing affairs. “Look at the state of that tackle!” has been replaced with a calm, technical state of mind by both sides, a move that has no doubt come from both team’s managers. Yet here, in the fine rain under the floodlights, tackles were being won, lost and fought all over the pitch.
After the gnarly introduction came an unclear penalty decision. Harry Wilson dinked the ball past the oncoming defender, way past, but Mason Holgate, who was brilliant all match, allowed Wilson to win the foul by moving his body towards the player. I wasn’t complaining in the middle of a sea of blue, but from what I could see, it could have gone either way.
The foul was won by Wilson, and the penalty was taken by him too. Despatched nicely, he made it 1-0 to the away side.
Fast forward nine minutes and Liverpool scored again. The impressive Joao Teixeira struck a low shot to the left of the ‘keeper to make it 2-0. It was beginning to look like a hefty win was on the cards.
Next stop it was Sergi Canos, who had a quiet game, thrashing a goal home from close range after decent work from Cleary to forge the chance.
At 3-0 up, Liverpool looked in cruise control without ever looking very good. It just so happened that Everton were worse, but they pulled a goal back towards the end of a drab half thanks to a deflected strike by Joe Williams. And then came half-time.
In the second half, Tom Brewitt came on in place of the fit-again Tiago Ilori.
Ilori, looking composed and quick without ever truly being tested, will need more than today to prove his worth to the club, but his bringing of the ball past the half-way line was good to see, and he often dealt with the threat of striker Sam Byrne well. Much better than the Brewitt did, let’s put it that way.
The two goals Everton scored came about because, in short, they upped their game and Liverpool stayed at the average level they achieved in the first half. Brewitt looked slightly nervous on the ball, punting it into touch a fair few times, whilst the team as a whole seemed to tire quickly as the match went on.
Goals by Conor McAleny and Tom Davies (after some poor keeping by Fulton) brought Everton a point from the game, when in truth they deserved that, if not more.
The stand out players in the match were by far Teixeira and Holgate (for Everton), both of whom, on this evidence, will be firmly in first-team thinking, even if they end up going on loan.
Joao Carlos seems a tidy player, like Suso was, but with more strength and intelligence about his game, yet it’s still unsure if he will make the grade. The club, though, are clearly giving him every opportunity to show his worth.
Honourable mentions should also go to Connor Randall and Cameron Brannagan. Randall has the air about him of a Jon Flanagan. Rough, ready and always in position, I can see him being a first-team player in the future, even if he doesn’t end up becoming a starting XI regular.
Brannagan has been flirting with the Liverpool first team for a little while now, and it’s easy to see why. Calm on the ball, like Lucas, yet more mobile on the football pitch, Cameron always seems composed. Regularly making himself available as the out-ball to Jordan Rossiter and the centre-back pairing, I hope he gets the chance to play some cup games this year and maybe even force his way into a Premier League 18 along the way.
A poor performance from the young Reds but there is plenty of time for them to improve, both as a team and as individuals.