Curtis Jones netted his first goals of the season as Liverpool Under-23s comfortably beat Derby County on Friday afternoon.
Derby U23s 1-3 Liverpool U23s
Premier League 2, Moor Farm
March 8, 2019
Goals: Jones 16′ & 67′, Camacho 61; Kelleher OG 89′
The young Reds were looking to bounce back from the disappointment of losing the mini-derby to Everton on Monday night, getting their Premier League 2 campaign back on track in the process.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was named in a starting lineup for the first time in 319 days, but Neil Critchley was under strict instructions to only play him for a maximum of 45 minutes.
Speaking in his pre-Burnley press conference at Melwood, Jurgen Klopp discussed the careful steps being taken with the 25-year-old, noting the need to be sensible and not rush his comeback.
There were two other changes from the Everton defeat, with Juanma and the returning Nat Phillips coming in for Liam Coyle and Isaac-Christie Davies.
A Liverpool win would take them one point behind their third-placed opponents.
- Oxlade-Chamberlain starts a game for the first time in 11 months
- Curtis Jones gives Reds 16th-minute lead
- Oxlade-Chamberlain bright; replaced shortly before half-time
- Rafa Camacho makes it 2-0 from close-range on the hour mark
- Jones puts the game to bed with his second; Kelleher scores late own goal
- Comfortable 3-1 win for Liverpool, who jump to fourth in Premier League 2
Deployed in a No.8 role in the middle of the park, Oxlade-Chamberlain was involved early on, finding right-back Ki-Jana Hoever out wide, but his cross was disappointing.
A sizeable crowd, including Harry Wilson and Frank Lampard, was present at Derby’s training ground to watch the return of one of Liverpool’s most popular players.
The Reds struggled to find their groove in the first 10 minutes, occasionally overplaying it at the back and losing possession too cheaply.
Good call to play Connor Randall and Adam Lewis in midfield with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain today, taking away the physical pressure on the No. 8, while both having the quality to keep up on the ball too.
— Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) March 8, 2019
Oxlade-Chamberlain was one of his side’s brighter players, attempting a one-two with Curtis Jones but failing to be found with the return pass.
Liverpool went in front in the 16th minute thanks to Jones, who pounced on an error by Ethan Wassall before finishing well with the outside of his right foot.
It was the 18-year-old’s first goal for the U23s this season.
Jones almost doubled the lead after racing through midway through the first half, but his low effort from an angle was kept out.
One superb long-range pass by Oxlade-Chamberlain was taken down perfectly by Ben Woodburn, as the returning favourite showcased his creativity.
Adam Lewis, shining as a No.6, fired a 30-yard strike narrowly wide, highlighting Liverpool sudden stranglehold on proceedings.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced by Christie-Davies as a precaution shortly before half-time, having felt his hamstring earlier in the half – an understandable issue and nothing to be concerned about.
Corey Whelan come on for Phillips at the interval as the centre-back recovers from his own injury problems having undergone ankle surgery since his last appearance in November.
Joe Bateman shot straight at Caoimhin Kelleher early in the second half, with what was Derby’s first meaningful attempt.
Despite offering little, all of a sudden Liverpool were 2-0 up thanks to Rafa Camacho‘s 10th goal of the campaign, after Jones had been denied from point-blank range.
Hoever came inches away from scoring an own goal soon after, but Jones put the Reds out of sight after poking home from a couple of yards out.
Kelleher made an excellent stop to thwart Jayden Mitchell-Lawson late on, but then produced a howler, dropping the ball over the line to gift Derby an 89th-minute consolation.
It was a convincing victory for Critchley’s side, who leapfrog Leicester into fourth place in Premier League 2.
TIA Man of the Match: Curtis Jones
Liverpool U23s: Kelleher; Hoever, Phillips (Whelan 46′), Johnston, Juanma; Lewis (Masterson 78′), Randall, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Christie-Davies 40′); Camacho, Jones, Woodburn
Subs not used: Atherton, McAuley
Next Match: Chelsea (H) – Premier League 2 – Monday, April 8, 7pm (GMT)