January 25, 2016

25/01/16 Liverpool U21s 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur U21s, Deva Stadium

Tom Glover (18)
Walker-Peters (18) Cameron Carter-Vickers (18) (c) Filip Lesniak (19) Anthony Georgiou (18)
Luke Amos (18) Anton Walkes (18)
Andros Townsend (24) Cy Goddard (18) Joe Pritchard (19)
Will Miller (19)

Subs:
Emmanuel Sonupe (19) for Joe Pritchard, 68.
Christian Maghoma (18) for for Will Miller, 77.
Christopher Paul (18) for Cy Goddard, 84.

Subs not used:
Harry Voss (19)

Liverpool: Bogdan (28), Virtue (18), Hart (19), Caulker (24), Enrique (30), Stewart (22), Ojo (18), Chirivella (18), Sinclair (19), Brannagan (19), Kent (19).

Spurs lined up with Kyle Walker-Peters and Cameron Carter-Vickers joined by midfielders Filip Lesniak and Anyhony Georgiou in the back-line. Luke Amos was the dedicated holder in midfield, with Anton Walkes playing as the 8. Andros Townsend started on the right, with Cy Goddard centrally and Joe Pritchard on the left. Will Miller was ‘leading the line’ – I use the phrase loosely.

Spurs were the much younger side, an average of two and a half years younger according to @thfcacademy.

Liverpool had two Premier League players at centre-back, up against a player in Will Miller who had barely played a string of matches for the Under-21s, and certainly not as a striker.

Spurs were missing Shayon Harrison, Nathan Oduwa (recently returned from Rangers), and Milos Veljkovic through injury, Dominic Ball, Grant Ward and Connor Ogilvie who were out on loan, and Josh Onomah and Harry Winks who were with the first team squad in Barcelona. Walker-Peters was available after his trial at Roda did not lead to a loan (apparently due to their long-ball approach!).

It was obvious from the start that the gegenpressing was not just a first-team tactic for Liverpool, as they pushed up quickly on Spurs’ back line and forced them to play long-balls out, a style the players are not accustomed to. Cameron Carter-Vickers was struggling as a result and played one long pass straight into touch and another cannoning into Walker-Peters’ legs after a ‘hospital pass’ from Anton Walkes.

Jerome Sinclair broke forward well for Liverpool but Carter-Vickers read the danger and shepherded him out before clearing for a throw.

Walkes and Amos were both a bit sloppy in possession in midfield in the early stages, which was not helping Spurs in their attempts to gain a foothold.

Georgiou played a nice ball to Miller who had dropped into midfield; he got it wide to Townsend, who cut in but tried to best one man too many. Liverpool were closing Townsend down well, getting bodies around him and causing him to take an extra touch.

Amos, meanwhile, was playing himself into the game nicely with some good passing, taking the ball in tight spaces and using it intelligently.

Liverpool nearly went ahead on 10 minutes as Ojo got the better of Georgiou and played Sinclair in on the inside of Lesniak; his cut-back just evaded the bodies in the box.

On 13 minutes, Ojo won a free kick off Georgiou on the Liverpool right and Kent’s left footed cross-cum-shot slipped right through the body of poor Tom Glover. 1-0 to the home side.

Amos got Spurs on the front foot with a nice pass to Pritchard, but he overhit his knock to Townsend – the story of Spurs’ night.

Glover played a very poor pass out to Georgiou which he just got away with, but Georgiou miscontrolled it; Spurs were their own worst enemy.

There was some nice interplay from Goddard and Townsend but Goddard’s pass towards Miller was too long.

Spurs’ first opening came on 23 minutes as Pritchard bundled his way into a shooting area but dragged his effort wide.

Sinclair’s effort was straight at Glover after Brannagan won the ball and found him well.

Georgiou found Pritchard, he danced across the edge of the box and teed up Goddard, but Liverpool players converged on him and ex-Spur Stewart blocked the effort.

Spurs then won a corner which Georgiou and Townsend managed to waste between them by trying to be too clever.

Amos did brilliantly to rob Virtue and, as he cut in readying himself to shoot, Virtue took him down right on the edge of the penalty area; he was lucky not to get booked. Townsend’s free-kick was the right idea, but hit straight at Bogdan.

Townsend won a foul from Hart after getting the ball from Goddard, and his free kick was taken towards the near post, with Caulker clearing it as Walkes lingered.

Spurs got Miller into the box in a good position but his cut-back was wasteful. Miller then lost the ball again after a good pass by Pritchard.

Goddard showed some lovely skill and quick feet to hold the ball under pressure and then get the ball wide as Spurs were having their best spell.

Townsend made a fantastic driving run down the right and his cut-back was perfect to Miller, but he lacked composure and smashed his shot over with his left foot when well placed.

Walker Peters held back Ryan Kent and somehow got away without a booking – this became more controversial later in the game, when Stewart picked up his second for a similar foul.

Georgiou did well to dispossess Ojo who was well positioned on the right of the box after a lovely pass from Enrique.

Amos nicked in to win possession again – something he did a lot throughout the half.

Walkes played an impressive first time pass out wide to Georgiou but he had strayed offside. At half-time, Spurs went in 1-0 down after a pretty dreadful half of football with very little quality on display. Liverpool, the more experienced side, were marginally better.

Spurs started the second half poorly, with Walker-Peters clipping Sinclair’s heels as he was about to run through – in a Premier League match, that would definitely have been a booking, and probably Walker-Peters’ second. Fortunately for Spurs, Kent’s free-kick came back off the wall.

Glover got himself into a mess once again when he took an unnecessary touch in the box and then struggled to clear his lines – he was eventually glad that Carter-Vickers mopped up the mess.

Amos did well to win the ball again but Walkes gave the ball straight back to Liverpool, playing a dreadful pass straight down the middle to Bogdan.

Amos fouled Stewart after a nice Stewart dummy and then committed another foul which saw him go into the book. Carter-Vickers defended Brannagan’s free kick well, but Liverpool persisted and Ojo crossed for Sinclair to tuck in, with Glover suspect once again. 2-0 and it looked like game over.

A couple of minutes later Amos committed another foul – he was walking a real tightrope.

Sinclair’s header went easily into Glover’s hands after a lovely cross from the impressive Ojo, before Kent nutmegged Walkes on the edge of the box but flashed his slot well wide.

On 65 minutes, Spurs strung together their best move of the half but Townsend lost possession on the left. Walker-Peters regained the ball on the opposite side but Pritchard overhit his cross wastefully.

Kent had a good run and shot but Glover got down to claim it at the second attempt, before Braanigan’s superb burst into the box ended with a shot which flashed just wide.

Sonupe came on for Pritchard on the left, and on 68 minutes he cut in off the line but his through ball went straight out for a goal kick.

A minute later, Walker-Peters exchanged passes with Townsend and went on a trademark mazy run; he got the ball into Miller who found Sonupe but he passed up a shooting opportunity and ended up with a corner which was hit too long by Townsend.

Walker-Peters then dribbled expertly out from the back and won a free kick, before Townsend showed some good skill and awareness to to cut inside and find Walker-Peters again.

Miller received the ball from Walker-Peters and turned Enrique well, but Stewart barged into him to take him down on the edge of the box, and received a booking. Townsend took the free kick and fired it just over.

A couple of minutes later, Stewart received his second yellow for dragging Walkes back – an easy decision for the referee.

Will Miller was replaced by Christian Maghoma. This meant that Lesniak moved into midfield (yay!) and Walkes moved up front (boo!).

Chris Paul replaced Cy Goddard in our final change, as we tried to press home the numerical advantage.

In truth we created little more, and Walkes’ horribly over hit pass for Sonupe summed up our attacking intent.

This was not a good performance from our side, and I am getting increasingly concerned about the way the team is being managed. Without wanting to single out individuals, there are a few players in this team that are simply not up to playing at this level, and Ehiogu’s unwillingness to recognise this has led to some good players 1. being played out of position and 2. losing confidence as a result

I will not be doing ratings this time, mostly as they won’t make nice reading. Suffice to say that Townsend tried hard but had little success, and Walker-Peters was his usual self in possession. He is a level above most of his teammates and I cannot see what this is doing for his development. He needs a loan move, even if it is to League Two or to Scotland, like Oduwa; Mark Warburton would handle him with care.

While we had a lot of players unavailable for various reasons (e.g. I imagine that the following team would have given Liverpool a much better game: McGee; Walker-Peters, Carter-Vickers, Ball, Ogilvie; Veljkovic, Winks; Ward, Onomah, Oduwa; Harrison), these consistently poor team selections are worrying.

It is time for us to give ourselves a platform by playing Carter-Vickers and Maghoma at the back, Lesniak (or Veljkovic, when fit) and Amos in deep midfield and to give Marcus Edwards and Keanan Bennetts more minutes behind Shayon Harrison (or, when he’s not available, Kazaiah Sterling).

Obviously I do not know the ins and outs of daily training – I can’t say who is and is not deserving of team spots based on that. But from watching the games that I have, and from speaking to people who watch every week, I cannot see Ugo Ehiogu being in charge next season as it stands, as too many players are going backwards.

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