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′
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.
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.
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.
Nightmare for the #LFCU23s last night losing 7-0 to Villarreal, but needs a bit of context.
Average age: ?? 20.8; ??????? 18.2
Villarreal ?: Eight over 20s; two 23, two 22; nine play in Segunda Div. B
Liverpool ?: Eight under 20s; four 17, one 16; one plays in League Two pic.twitter.com/VCw0wKSyLn
— Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) November 22, 2018
The result will hurt these emerging Liverpool stars, but they will learn so much from it in the weeks, months and years to come.
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