Late Cameron Brannagan penalty seals opening pre-season victory for Liverpool U23s

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Cameron Brannagan made a late impact as the Liverpool U23s secured a 2-1 victory over Cymru Alliance side Rhyl FC in their first pre-season friendly.

The young Reds made the trip to North Wales for their maiden outing under new manager Neil Critchley, who took the reins from Mike Garrity this summer.

Liverpool’s former U18s coach led a new-look side out at the Corbett Sports Stadium, with the likes of Conor Masterson and Liam Coyle making the step up to U23 level this season.

Critchley was also able to call upon some more familiar faces, however, with Brannagan joined by Lloyd Jones as part of the veteran contingent in Rhyl.

It was the home side who went ahead early on, with Alex Titchener firing home after just four minutes.

Toni Gomes, who will be looking to fill the void as one of the U23s’ primary goalscorers this season, levelled the scores on 17 minutes, heading past Rory Crowther to make it 1-1.

Liverpool gained control after Gomes’ strike, with the Portugal youth international remaining a handful throughout, while Critchley utilised the friendly to make a host of changes.

Brannagan stayed on, however, and when the young Reds were awarded a penalty with four minutes left to play, the 21-year-old stepped up and sealed the win.

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 17, 2016: Liverpool's coach Neil Critchley during the FA Youth Cup 3rd Round match against Crystal Palace at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It remains to be seen whether Critchley will be able to field Brannagan throughout this season, with the midfielder likely considering a move away from Merseyside if he stays with the U23s.

While Pedro Chirivella was among those to feature, and score, in the first team’s 4-0 win away to Tranmere Rovers on Wednesday night, Brannagan has been absent from first-team action so far.

Last season, he spent four months on loan with Fleetwood Town in League One, making 14 appearances for the the Trawlermen, assisting once.

Regardless, Critchley was content his side’s performance in Rhyl, as they began what he hopes will be a productive pre-season.

“It was a good work out for us and it was great to get the first game under our belts,” he told LiverpoolFC.com.

“Rhyl were great hosts and there was a good crowd who saw a decent game.

“We have only been back training for a week so it was good to step up our fitness and there were some good performances.”

The U23s are set to take part in a six-team friendly tournament later in July, taking on Coventry City (July 29) and PSV Eindhoven (July 30) at Nuneaton’s Coombe Abbey Arena.

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