YOUNG REDS HALFWAY TO THE FINAL
Jimmy Rice 10 March 2007
Liverpool under-18s are halfway to the Youth Cup final after an action-packed first-leg victory over Newcastle United at St James's Park on Saturday.
The holders, who beat Man City in last year's dramatic final, travel back to Merseyside with a 4-2 semi-final lead thanks to goals from Ryan Flynn (2), Charlie Barnett and Craig Lindfield.
Steve Heighway's side know from experience not to take anything for granted, but they'll go into the second leg at Anfield a week on Monday as favourites to face either Manchester United or Arsenal in the final.
The visitors stated their intentions from the off, dominating the opening exchanges and creating the first chance almost before the watching Peter Beardsley had taken his seat. Unfortunately 16-year-old Swede Astrit Ajdarevic was unable to direct a six-yard header under the bar. Still, it boded well.
Minutes later Magpies keeper Mark Cook was forced into a decent save when a Jimmy Ryan cross from the right swerved towards his top corner.
Shortly after a whipped in cross by Jimmy Ryan was met by the head of Craig Lindfield. This time the ball hit the hoardings.
Anyone who watched Newcastle's midweek UEFA Cup tie with Az Alkmaar wouldn't have anticipated any sort of crowd for a Youth Cup tie, but a good few thousand Geordies came out to support their boys on this Saturday lunchtime.
They had to wait almost 20 minutes for their side's first shot on goal, Kazenga Lualua drilling a 20-yard effort well wide. Newcastle officials were unable to confirm what relation he was to Lomana, but his cousin/brother/uncle would not have been proud.
Whatever, on 24 minutes Charlie Barnett gave him a shooting lesson when he crashed a stunning 30-yard drive into the bottom left-hand corner of Cook's net. The young Reds have scored some cracking goals en route to the semis - this was up there with the best.
One nil down and struggling to carve out any real chances, the hosts were reduced to long shots from the lively Lualua.
Whenever they did threaten during the first half, Burns, Spearing, Threlfall and Darby were on hand to clear away the danger. Behind them, Danish keeper Martin Hansen punched, caught and commanded with a composure which belied his 16 years.
Mind, he nearly came a cropper when a Stephen Darby back-header floated feet above his head. Luckily it bounced narrowly wide.
Liverpool's second came five minutes before the break when hot prospect Ajdarevic chipped a lovely through-ball to Lindfield, whose goal owed as much to the intelligence of his run as the coolness of his finish.
The Youth Cup veteran used all his experience to evade the offside trap and get himself one-on-one, then slotted neatly into the bottom left-hand corner of Cook's net.
The second half began more promisingly for the hosts, who nearly pulled one back just after the restart when Lualua burst through the Red defence. Hansen's save rolled dangerously through the box but Ryan Donaldson hit wide in front of an open goal.
However, 15 minutes into the half Liverpool, without the suspended Ray Putterill, got their third. It came when Cook parried a Charlie Barnett stinger from the D and Ryan Flynn tucked home from two yards.
To their credit Newcastle didn't let their heads drop and pulled one back almost immediately when Andy Carroll nodded a high free-kick beyond the oncoming Hansen. Game back on.
And what a game it was turning out to be. On 68 minutes the Reds made it four thanks to a defensive lapse which put Ryan Flynn through on goal. Cook knew what was coming next but was lame to respond to a fine lob which bounced satisfyingly into the hosts' net.
The holders' cup campaign has attracted ever-increasing numbers of journalists as the rounds have progressed, and the hacks had barely added a full-stop to Liverpool's fourth when the plucky Newcastle boys pulled another back.
There was a hint of an own goal when a curling free-kick was diverted into Hansen's net, but the stadium announcer credited striker Andy Carroll and no one in the Liverpool dressing room will complain at that.
Liverpoolfc.tv man of the match: Ryan Flynn.
Liverpool under-18s: Martin Hansen, Stephen Darby, Michael Burns, Jay Spearing (capt), Robbie Threlfall, Charlie Barnett, Jimmy Ryan, Ryan Flynn, Craig Lindfield, Steve Irwin (Sean Highdale 84), Astrit Ajdarevic.
well done again young fellas, looks like these lads can go all the way again.
« Last Edit: Mar 11, 2007 12:50:38 pm by JD »