In a repeat of yesterday’s first team fixture, Manchester United’s U23s travelled to Anfield to take on Liverpool. After a lacklustre first hour of the match, the game opened up but it wasn’t until the third minute of added time that a goal was to come. Matthew Willock‘s header in the dying moments proved the difference between the sides.
Nicky Butt’s team was hoping to improve on recent poor form which includes no wins in the last 5 Premier League Two matches. The starting XI was boosted by the return of Joe Riley. The winger-turned-full-back started at the right of the defence after missing the previous 5 matches. Demetri Mitchell continued in the left-back berth. Regan Poole, who was sent off in the last match, was not suspended for this match as the rules of the league mean that the suspension doesn’t take effect until the following match against Everton.
It was a weakened Liverpool selection as the first team and a youth side are in action this Wednesday, resulting in a squad fielded with only 4 available substitutes. The first half was toothless from both sides. Neither side forced the opposition’s goalkeeper into action. The best chance for United came from a Matty Willock shot which was blocked by Tom Brewitt, after Callum Gribbin found the midfielder in the penalty area. Liverpool’s best chance was a long range effort which skied over the goal and into the stands.
A few tasty challenges from the Liverpool players, in particular, Jordan Williams and Madger Gomes, went unpunished by the referee, leaving Nicky Butt irate on the touchline.
Liverpool responded to the first half by making a double substitution at the break. This did provide a bit of a spark and the home side had an early chance. Joe Riley, who had a decent first half, blocked the ball at the back. He elected to play the ball and Liverpool regained possession. Fortunately the effort went wide of Joel Pereira‘s goal.
The first shot on target came in the 66th minute. A moment before Joel Pereira had to be on hand to collect a defensive header from substitute Matthew Olosunde which was on target. Liverpool captain, Matthew Virtue, followed up a minute later with a shot which was straight at the United goalkeeper.
Liverpool had increased the pressure in the lead up to that chance but that seemed to give United a bit more space going forward. Good work from Scott McTominay and Josh Harrop saw Gribbin closing in on goal with the ball. The attacker side-footed a shot but without power it barely troubled Shamal George.
Substitute Kane Lewis brought down Gribbin in the penalty area and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. The Liverpool players reacted badly and a little fisticuffs ensued. Sean Goss took the penalty but it was at a good height for Shamal George to make the save.
Riley was booked for a foul to prevent a Liverpool counter attack as the game started to liven up. Olosunde went on a good over-lapping run and played the ball across the face of the goal but no United player was there to tap it home.
In true United style, however, it wasn’t over until the final whistle. Virtue gave away a freekick which Goss sent into the box. Willock managed to get clear in the box and his header found the back of the net to win the game.
Those three points see United leap into 7th in the PL2 table, just above Southampton. United’s next fixture is against current league leaders Everton at home at Leigh Sports Village in two week’s time on Monday 30th January.
Man United: J. Pereira, Riley (Kehinde 85′), Tuanzebe (c), Poole, Mitchell, Redmond (Olosunde 56′), Goss, Harrop, Willock, Gribbin (Buffonge 85′), McTominay.
Unused Substitutes: O’Hara, Scott.
Goal(s): Willock (93′).
Booking(s): Goss (48′), Riley (77′).
Liverpool: George, Whelan, Phillips, Brewitt, Hart, Williams (Brimmer 46′), Lennon, Virtue, Alves (Lewis 46′), M. Gomes, Dunn (T. Gomes 84′).
Unused Substitutes: Kelleher.
Booking(s): Brewitt (70′), Lewis (75′), Virtue (93′).