United Under-18s push Liverpool all the way
Manchester United's Under-18s showed great resilience to equalise three times against our arch-rivals Liverpool on Saturday, in an entertaining Academy game at Kirkby.
It was one of those games that could have easily gone either way but in the end, the hosts snatched all three points with a late, late winner. There was a further blow for United when a brief confrontation at full-time resulted in our defender Reece Devine receiving a second yellow card and being sent off.
This is invariably a feisty fixture and there was nothing to suggest that this one was going to be any different. Even at Under-18 level, the rivalry between these two North West giants shows no bounds.
Liverpool, watched from the touchline by a former Anfield favourite, Steve Heighway, started the game well and looked more than capable of grabbing an early advantage. It didn’t happen for the home side and that allowed United to slowly ease our way back into contention.
Dutch youngster Hoogewerf was looking sharp and was operating well as United’s main striker, but his promising start to the match was to be curtailed in the 24th minute, when injury forced him to leave the field to be replaced by Sotona.
Two minutes later and Liverpool moved into the lead following a smart move that concluded with Matteo Ritaccio, an American from New York, blasting the ball past our Czech goalkeeper Ondrej Mastny.
It wasn’t by any means against the run of play because it was clear that the nature of the game could produce a goal at either end. That was underlined three minutes later when substitute Sotona claimed the leveller from close range. Liverpool’s players were convinced that ‘keeper Ben Winterbottom had been fouled, but referee Ian Johnston ignored their appeals.
With eight minutes to go until half-time, Liverpool regained the lead with a goal from their skipper Fidel O’Rourke. Then the play switched to the other end where United were soon back on terms after Wellens got the final touch to a Mark Helm strike.
The second half continued in the same style with the possession being equitably shared as the action moved rapidly between both penalty areas. Liverpool were nearest to finding the next goal when only a miraculous one-handed Mastny save prevented Tom Hill’s shot from finding the target.
The final act of this compelling match was played out when Liverpool’s Layton Stewart scored their fourth and winning goal, to leave us all looking forward to the return meeting in Manchester, in January next year.
United: Mastny; Bejger (Neville 90+3), Fish, Hockenhull, Devine; Wellens, McCann, Helm; Stanley, Hoogewerf (Sotona 24), Shoretire.
Substitutes: Mee, Hardley, I. Hughes.
Scorers: Liverpool - Ritaccio 26, O’Rourke 37, Brookwell 81, Stewart 90; United - Sotona 29, Wellens 40, 83.
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