Luis Longstaff was the star of the show as a fresh-faced Liverpool U23 side emerged as 3-0 victors over Arsenal, with the FA Cup lineup now clearer than ever.
Liverpool U23s 3-0 Arsenal U23s
Premier League 2, Kirkby
February 1, 2020
Goals: Boyes 24′, Varesanovic 43′, Longstaff 66′
With Neil Critchley set to lead out his under-23 side against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup on Tuesday, vast changes to the team were made as a host of regulars for the U18s made the step up, with their fixture against Wolves on Saturday postponed.
The likes of Harvey Elliott, Neco Williams, Ki-Jana Hoever and Sepp van den Berg were all absent as they prepare for midweek, but Caoimhin Kelleher did take his place in between the sticks as invaluable game time came his way.
It meant Tom Clayton shifted from his regular position at centre-back to the No. 6 role, while Tom Hill and Luis Longstaff, who started at Aston Villa in the League Cup, led the line alongside Elijah Dixon-Bonner in blustery conditions at Kirkby.
And it was a Longstaff’s free-kick delivery into the box which paved the way for the young Reds to open the scoring, with Morgan Boyes celebrating his contract extension with a headed goal.
After missing a chance earlier in the piece, Dal Varesanovic made no mistakes at the second time of asking after finding himself on the end of James Norris’s cut back across the goal face – ensuring Liverpool’s early dominance was reflected on the scoreboard heading into the break.
HT: Liverpool U23s 2-0 Arsenal U23s
With the wind at their backs in the second, Liverpool continued to push forward and they reaped their rewards in memorable fashion, with Longstaff again at the heart of the action.
The 18-year-old added a goal to his assist earlier in the afternoon with a beautifully curled free-kick into the corner of the net from 20-yards out, a strike which established a three-goal buffer with a third of the game left to play.
While Critchley will have his XI for Shrewsbury’s visit all but set in stone, the result and performance from his chargers against Arsenal will give him food for thought for the remainder of the matchday squad.
Liverpool U23s: Kelleher; Gallacher, Savage, Boyes, Norris; Clayton, Bearne, Varesanovic ( O’Rourke 67′); Longstaff, Dixon-Bonner, Hill
Subs not used: Winterbottom, Quansah, Brookwell
Next Match: Sunderland (H) – Premier League Cup – Sunday, Feb 9, 1pm (GMT)