MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Friday, August 24, 2018: Liverpool's Liam Millar looks dejected as his goal is disallowed during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Youthful Liverpool U23s endure brutal learning experience at hands of Villarreal

An inexperienced Liverpool U23s side were annihilated by Villarreal U23s in their Premier League International Cup opener on Wednesday, losing 7-0 at Kirkby.

Liverpool U23s 0-7 Villarreal U23s

Premier League International Cup, Kirkby
November 21, 2018

Goals: Gonzalez 4′, 15′, Lozano 6′, Vujnovic (pen) 23′, 62′, Riera 52′, Akale 90′

Neil Critchley‘s young Reds took on their Spanish counterparts at the academy, having reached the quarter-finals of the Premier League International Cup last season.

There were changes aplenty from Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Burnley in the Premier League Cup on November 11, with a total of seven U18s in the squad.

Ki-Jana Hoever, Rhys Williams, Elijah Dixon-Bonner, Yasser Larouci and Luis Longstaff all made the step up and started, while Abdi Sharif and Bobby Duncan were on the substitutes’ bench.

Shamal George replaced Kamil Grabara in goal, on a break from his loan spell at Tranmere Rovers, with Liam Coyle and Liam Millar also brought in by Critchley.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 18, 2018: Liverpool's substitute Yasser Larouci during the UEFA Youth League Group C match between Liverpool FC and Paris Saint-Germain at Langtree Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Such was the young nature of the Liverpool side, it was no surprise to see Villarreal go into the game as strong favourites.

Critchley went with a 3-5-2 formation, with Hoever and Larouci at wing-back and Glen McAuley partnering Millar in attack.

The visitors were ahead with just three minutes on the clock, with Mario Gonzalez converting after being denied by George shortly before.

It was 2-0 in the sixth minute as Liverpool made a horrendous start, after Sergio Lozano’s long-range effort looped into the corner.

Gonzalez got his second before a quarter of the game had even been played, as a weakened Reds team were shown up.

Sadly, Villarreal were 4-0 up when Longstaff conceded a penalty and Nikola Vujnovic stroked home the spot-kick.

McAuley had Liverpool’s first genuinely good chance just before half-time, but his dinked effort was saved.

ST HELENS, ENGLAND - Wednesday,October 24, 2018: Liverpool's substitute Bobby Duncan during the UEFA Youth League Group C match between Liverpool FC and FK Crvena zvezda at Langtree Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Adrian Riera added a fifth for Villarreal early in the second half, curling home expertly, but it was a little too easy.

The torture continued as Vujnovic got his second of the night, taking advantage of a poor kick by George to rifle a shot into the net.

The rest of the game was almost played like a practice match, with only one side looking like finding the net.

Duncan did earn his U23s debut late on, which was one of the few plus points on a freezing cold evening.

Mukwelle Akale completed the scoring in the dying seconds, with his clinical finish summing up Villarreal’s ruthlessness.

The result will hurt these emerging Liverpool stars, but they will learn so much from it in the weeks, months and years to come.

A much-strengthened team is expected for the U23s’ return to Premier League 2 action on Sunday afternoon, as Liverpool take on top-of-the-table Everton.

Man of the Match: Ki-Jana Hoever

Liverpool U23s: George; R.Williams, Masterson, Juanma (N.Williams 89′); Hoever, Coyle (Sharif 71′), Dixon-Bonner, Longstaff, Larouci; Millar, McAuley (Duncan 78′)

Subs not used: Atherton, Lewis

Next Match: Everton (A) – Premier League 2 – Sunday, November 25, 2pm

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