Manchester United’s Reserves came from behind to claim a terrific morale-boosting victory against Liverpool at Anfield on Friday night.
In what was one of the Under-23s’ best performances of the season, Ricky Sbragia’s side scored twice in the final 10 minutes to claim a deserved win in rain-soaked conditions.
Understandably, all the talk in the past week has centred on the build-up to Saturday’s blockbuster at Old Trafford at first team level.
That contest should, of course, take the spotlight considering the remarkable history that exists between the two north-west giants.
This little Friday night appetiser at Anfield took the back seat but, in its own way, the outcome carried as much importance as the high octane main course to come.
Liverpool were looking for three points to keep up their challenge for the Premier League 2 title, while United were keen to get back to winning ways after a run of unfavourable results.
There was a good crowd of 5,049 inside Anfield at kick-off, with the vast majority occupying The Kop and a small detachment of The Red Army housed in the corner where The Kop meets the Kenny Dalglish Stand.
United, wearing their change kit of grey shirts, started brightly and, with a touch of fortune, could have been two goals ahead inside the opening five minutes.
Striker Zak Dearnley was involved on both occasions, firstly having an angled drive blocked by keeper Danny Ward and then, soon after, he narrowly failed to connect with Tahith Chong’s cross from the left.
The home side had their own chances in front of goal as the game unfolded into a finely balanced contest but United were more threatening, as Ethan Hamilton forced Ward to make another terrific save in the 34th minute with a low shot.
United, defending the Kop goal in the second half, looked to build on an extremely encouraging showing before the break. The rain, which had been falling throughout the game, appeared to be even heavier, but that didn’t stop the teams from providing an end-to-end entertaining game.
The breakthrough eventually arrived in the 65th minute when Liverpool were awarded a free-kick on the right wing. Defender Adam Lewis stood over the ball and everyone was probably expecting him to send over a cross into United’s area, but instead he opted to try his luck and it proved fortuitous as his shot zoomed into the top corner of the net.
United could easily have been level within five minutes but both Dearnley and Joe Riley were both thwarted by miraculous goalkeeping from Ward.
Then came a remarkable transformation of events as United roared back to score twice inside three minutes and take the lead.
Skipper Riley grabbed the equaliser with a close-range shot in the 80th minute and then Gribbin held his nerve to score from the penalty spot after substitute Joshua Bohui had been felled in the area.
More than five minutes of added time was played at the end, but United held on to record a great victory - the first of 2018.
United: O’Hara, Riley, Williams R-S., Borthwick-Jackson, O’Connor; Redmond, Hamilton (Buffonge 76); Chong, Gribbin, Kehinde (Bohui 80); Dearnley (Warren 88). Unused substitutes: Richardson, Whelan.