Liverpool Under-23s’ 100% start to the season came to an end on Monday night, as a below-par Reds outfit came up short in treacherous weather conditions against Derby County.
Derby U23s 2-0 Liverpool U23s
Premier League 2, St George’s Park
October 16, 2017
Goals: Vernam (50′), Babos (66′)
Neil Critchley’s side went into the game having won their opening six league games this season, topping the table ahead of Everton.
There were starts for household names Jon Flanagan and Danny Ings, with the duo still struggling to make inroads into the first-team. There was no Lazar Markovic, with the Serb completely out of favour at all levels at Anfield.
Charles Vernam forced Caoimhin Kelleher into a decent stop from a tight angle, but a relentless wind made it an ugly spectacle with few chances.
Ings attempted an audacious shot that was almost aided by the freakish weather, and one free-kick that flew inches wide was the best moment of the first-half.
Five minutes after the break, Derby were ahead, with Vernam converting coolly having been sent clean-through from a way out.
Liverpool continued to struggle to adapt to the conditions, creating very little and allowing their opponents to enjoy the better of things.
Alex Babos made it 2-0 with 65 minutes on the clock, with the Derby youngster finishing well to put Critchley’s side in dire straits.
Cameron Brannagan hit a decent strike late in the day and Wilson hit the bar, but a first Premier League 2 defeat of the season was inflicted on the Reds.
Flanagan fails to impress
It has been a tough few years for Flanagan, and it is unlikely that he will ever return to the level he reached back in 2013/14.
Deployed at right-back, the 24-year-old looked very ordinary throughout, and although he did little wrong, his limitations were plain to see.
With Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold both going from strength to strength in the first-team and Nathaniel Clyne returning soon, it is hard to see him ever playing at the top level for his boyhood club again.
He needs to start showing more quality when given the chance.
Ejaria & Brannagan very quiet
Ovie Ejaria and Cameron Brannagan are two of the more gifted Reds midfielders to emerge from the academy in recent times, and they started alongside one another at St George’s Park.
Their quality on the ball was affected by the howling wind, however, and they were unable to ever stamp their authority on the match.
Both were tipped to make the grade at the first-team level when they made their Liverpool debuts, in 2016 and 2015, respectively, but they have not kicked on yet.
The only moment of note from either player was Brannagan’s aforementioned late shot.
Man of the Match: Harry Wilson
Picking a star man in a game that saw so little quality is like having to select your favourite Man United player.
Wilson did at least look dangerous whenever he had the ball at his feet, however, and he came close to scoring at either end of proceedings.
The 20-year-old will enjoy far more enjoyable nights between now and the end of his career, as he looks to work his way into Jurgen Klopp‘s plans.
Liverpool: Kelleher, Flanagan, Whelan, Jones, Masterson, Brannagan, Wilson, Virtue, Ejaria, Dhanda, Ings.
Subs: Parker, Firth, Juanma, Sharif.