With suspension having ruled Ward out of Huddersfield’s Championship playoff first-leg clash with Sheffield Wednesday, boss David Wagner had a big call to make in whether to restore the ‘keeper for the second tie.
It was a tough decision given deputy stopper Joel Coleman kept a clean sheet in the first tie, but Wagner produced a big show of faith by recalling Ward for the make-or-break meeting at Hillsborough.
And the Wales international repaid his manager’s faith with a heroic shot-stopping display to hand Huddersfield a penalty shootout victory and a place in the Wembley final.
With the game having been forced to spot-kicks after a 1-1 draw, Ward made himself a hero with two stunning saves.
First, the Reds loanee flew to his left to deny Sam Hutchinson, before then making the decisive stop with a brilliant save at full-stretch to his right to thwart Fernando Forestieri.
Ward’s heroics sparked wild celebrations, but more importantly, set up a final showdown against Reading at Wembley where the ‘keeper will be desperate to sign off a fantastic spell with promotion to the Premier League.
We're on the wayyyyyy ?????? pic.twitter.com/Wk5mKIN4ZN
— Danny Ward (@dan_ward52) May 17, 2017
Awoniyi continued his delightful goalscoring streak by netting a third goal in as many games to help NEC Nijmegen to a crucial 3-1 relegation playoff first-leg win over FC Emmen.
Incredibly, the Nigerian came off the bench to score for the third game running, netting his side’s third goal with a finish of such class that it leaves you wondering how he went eight months without a scoring.
After collecting a loose ball on the edge of the box, Awoniyi produced some dazzling footwork to skip inside and create an angle to shoot, sending a classy curling finish into the far corner.
Awoniyi’s hot streak came to a disappointing end on Sunday, however, with the Nigerian frustratingly an unused sub in his side’s 1-0 second-leg win—a result which edges NEC closer to Eredivisie survival.
After missing Red Bull Salzburg’s title-clinching win through injury last week, Andre Wisdom made an instant return to the team for his side’s first game as champions against Admira on Saturday.
Manager Oscar Garcia instantly restored the fit-again Reds loanee at centre-back, where Wisdom has shone in the second half of the campaign as the Red Bulls stormed to title glory.
And Wisdom was in typically solid form on his comeback, helping post another clean sheet in a routine 2-0 win with a faultless defensive performance as he completed the full 90 minutes.
The campaign drew to a close for two of Liverpool’s remaining loaned men this weekend.
Allan Rodrigues signed off a hit-and-miss season at Hertha Berlin on a disappointing note, turning in a poor display as his side ended with a 6-2 thrashing at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen.
The Brazilian started the final-day clash in a two-man central midfield in Hertha’s 4-4-2, but was withdrawn at half-time for an ineffective display in a dire opening 45 minutes which Hertha ended trailing 3-0.
It was a disappointing end to a largely frustrating spell for Allan, who made just 16 appearances in all competitions—only eight of which were starts—failing to register a single goal or assist.
However, the final-day thrashing didn’t take the shine of what has been a positive season for Hertha, who finished sixth to secure a Europa League qualifier for next season.
And Allan, who is set to stay at the club for a second year, will hope to play a part in that European adventure as he looks to produce a more productive campaign in 2017/18.
The full-back once again watched on as an unused substitute for the duration of the Clarets’ 2-1 final day loss to West Ham at Turf Moor, where Flanagan made a 25th unused outing of the season.
Indeed, playing just 10 times in all competitions, Flanagan’s loan was undoubtedly the least productive of all 16 loanees this season—and arguably the most damaging too, having played such little football on return from long-term injury.
Flanagan will now return to Anfield hoping to convince Klopp he still does have an Anfield future—but it’s hard to see one for him after such an unimpressive spell, and with the squad to be strengthened this summer.
Finally, there was no domestic action for Brooks Lennon who missed both of Real Salt Lake’s games due to international duty with United States at the U20s World Cup in South Korea.
The American played all of his side’s opening clash which ended in a 3-3 draw with Ecuador, and he claimed two assists—delivering perfect crosses to supply his team’s second and third goals.
Liverpool’s Loanees This Week
- Danny Ward – Huddersfield – Played 120 mins of playoff second leg vs. Sheffield Wednesday
- Taiwo Awoniyi – NEC Nijmegen – Played 30 mins of relegation play-off first leg and scored vs. Emmen, unused sub for second leg
- Andre Wisdom – Red Bull Salzburg – Played 90 mins vs. Admira
- Allan Rodrigues – Hertha Berlin – Played 45 mins vs. Bayer Leverkusen
- Jon Flanagan – Burnley – Unused sub on final day vs. West Ham
- Brooks Lennon – Real Salt Lake – N/A due to international involvement with US U20s