Liverpool’s Under-23s stormed to a 5-1 win at Reading on Monday evening, with a strong but very youthful side producing some standout individual performances.
Mike Garrity’s youngsters strolled to an emphatic victory at Adams Park, as they moved up to third in the Premier League 2 table.
A formidable starting lineup always looked as though it would have too much for Reading, with eight Liverpool players having featured for the first-team this season.
The return of Marko Grujic was a major plus point, with the 20-year-old taking to the field for the first time in four months. Joe Gomez also exuded authority and scored the game’s opening goal.
On an evening that saw many players impress – Ben Woodburn also got on the scoresheet, while Kevin Stewart was dogged in midfield – there were three who caught the eye, in particular.
We have seen over recent years how few youngsters end up making the grade at Anfield, with Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen rare success stories.
In Trent Alexander-Arnold, though, the Reds have someone with the potential to emulate those illustrious names and become a future regular.
We have seen firsthand how undaunted he looks by being thrust into the first-team – he generally dealt well with Anthony Martial at Man United in January – and he often looked a class apart on Monday night.
There was a fearlessness to Alexander-Arnold’s game that not many young players possess, with his pace, energy and quality from right-back really catching the eye. It is easy to see why he can also thrive as a midfielder.
One superb surging burst down the right saw the teenager whip an excellent cross into the box, with Sheyi Ojo just failing to convert, and he was a constant outlet all evening.
It summed up the end product he has in his armoury, as we saw when he beautifully teed-up Divock Origi against Leeds United earlier in the season.
Everything Alexander-Arnold did was purposeful and slick, and while his attacking attributes will always impress more than those at the other end of the pitch, he was also solid defensively.
There has been some pressure on Nathaniel Clyne of late, following some forgettable performances – he will have to up his game next season if he is to keep his young teammate at arms length.
With Alexander-Arnold and Woodburn very much the best breakthrough acts in 2016/17, Harry Wilson has not always earned the plaudits he deserves.
Granted, his senior Liverpool debut at Plymouth Argyle saw his name fill some column inches, but his stock has not risen as much as others.
When you look at the captain’s stunning form for the U23s, though, it deserves to, with 24 goals to his name already this season.
Wilson once again outlined his enormous potential against a powerless Reading side, running the show for large chunks and ultimately playing a vital role in the win.
With his elegant left foot and eye-catching dribbling ability, the 19-year-old almost had shades of Lionel Messi about him at Adams Park – not that we are putting any pressure on the lad!
Having been denied with a typically well-struck shot, his inch-perfect resulting corner found the foot of Gomez, who volleyed home expertly.
The silky forward then laid on Liverpool’s second goal of the night for Rhian Brewster, before more good work in the second-half allowed Woodburn to make it 4-1, completing a hat-trick of assists.
Adam Lallana recently discussed Wilson’s “great potential”, as well as being underrated, and Monday was further evidence that he is among the most exciting young players the club has produced in years.
Perhaps we get ahead too far ahead of ourselves these days, with every young player that comes along tipped to become a future Anfield superstar, but there does seem to be a plethora of great talent in the U23s.
One who is really starting to make waves is Brewster, with the 16-year-old striker moving to Liverpool from Chelsea two years ago.
Speaking in a recent interview, Brewster spoke of his admiration for Luis Suarez and Roberto Firmino, admitting he tries to model his game on the former and current Reds forwards.
They are certainly fantastic role models to have, and the teenager’s performance against Reading was enough to suggest he is a player of great promise.
There was a maturity about the way in which he led the line, using the ball intelligently and linking up with the likes of Wilson, Woodburn and Ojo in attack. The most impressive aspect of his display, however, was his eye for goal.
He showed on his goalscoring debut against Ipswich Town in January that he knows exactly where the goal is, and his low, drilled finish to make it 2-0 at Reading had all the ruthlessness of a seasoned pro.
Brewster then showed typical strikers instincts to react fastest to Ojo’s shot cannoning off the post, with the 16-year-old finding the net from close-range.
The second half was less eventful for the former Chelsea starlet, with a precious hat-trick evading him, but it was another huge positive step in the right direction.
Expect the goals to continue to flow in the coming years.
* Read the full match report for Liverpool’s 5-1 win here.