Liverpool U21s suffered a 3-2 U21 Premier League Cup defeat away to West Ham United on Wednesday night, with Martin Skrtel dismissed after two yellow cards.
Skrtel was making his second appearance for the young Reds after recovering from a hamstring injury, but could not build on the U21s’ 1-1 draw with Man United on Friday night.
The Slovak started at centre-back alongside Joe Maguire, with Michael Beale naming a strong starting lineup for their Premier League Cup semi-final.
With Adam Bogdan in goal, Connor Randall and Jon Flanagan operated on the flanks of Beale’s back four, shielded by midfield pairing of Pedro Chirivella and Cameron Brannagan.
Ryan McLaughlin replaced the injured Jerome Sinclair to join a fluid, four-man attacking line alongside Ryan Kent, Joao Carlos Teixeira and Sheyi Ojo.
Chirivella drew first blood at the Rush Green Stadium, finishing a well-worked move on 10 minutes.
This set up a frenetic encounter, including a Doneil Henry equaliser in the second half—leading to extra time, and Skrtel’s red card.
After a positive 90 minutes, Skrtel made two reckless challenges during extra time to ensure his marching orders, with a Marcus Browne strike compounding Liverpool’s misery.
Beale will have been buoyed, however, as the in-form Ojo scored the Reds’ second of the night deep into extra time.
The 18-year-old’s goal came after great work from McLaughlin, making a rare appearance following his return to the club from a disappointing loan spell with Aberdeen.
Ojo’s intervention sparked optimism within Beale’s ranks, but this was to be short-lived, with Stephen Hendrie scoring West Ham‘s winner moments later.
The Hammers advance to the final of this season’s cup at the expense of Liverpool, and will now take on Hull City in a two-legged clash.
Beale’s work will continue in earnest, and the U21s manager will be clinging to some key positives after this defeat.
Notably, this comes in the form of Ojo, whose impressive displays could see him troubling the first team in the near future.
Liverpool U21s vs. West Ham: Bogdan, Randall (O’Hanlon 90′), Skrtel, Maguire, Flanagan (Hart 45′); Chirivella (M Gomes 105′), Brannagan; McLaughlin, Teixeira, Kent; Ojo