LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 22, 2020: Liverpool's Layton Stewart celebrates scoring the third goal, his hat-trick, to put his side 3-0 up during the Under-18 FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool striker returns from 12-month injury in win over Sporting CP

Liverpool striker Layton Stewart made his long-awaited return from injury on Wednesday, as an academy side earned a 2-1 victory over Sporting CP.

Stewart has been sidelined since rupturing his ACL in a 1-1 draw with the West Ham under-23s last March, with the club taking a cautious approach to his rehabilitation.

The teenager was running on grass in August, but it has taken until a full year out for him to make his first competitive appearance back.

That came as captain of the Liverpool under-19s in their fourth group game of the Al Abtal Cup, which took place in Madrid with Portuguese side Sporting CP as opposition.

It marked a much-anticipated return for Stewart, and he led a talented young side out including Melkamu Frauendorf, Bobby Clark, Isaac Mabaya and Lee Jonas.

Unfortunately, an injury to Lonas prompted Marc Bridge-Wilkinson into an early change, and Sporting took a first-half lead in a spirited game.

Stewart was replaced by Oakley Cannonier in the second half, with the substitute scoring twice to seal victory and bring his goal tally for the campaign up to 30.

The occasion was Stewart’s, however, and the 19-year-old can now look to make steady progress as he returns to action with the academy – which could include Tuesday’s trip to Juventus in the UEFA Youth League quarter-finals.

Ahead of the last-16 clash with Genk, which ended in a 4-3 penalty shootout victory, Stewart was added to the U19s’ squad list to confirm the club’s plans for his reintegration.

He could also feature for the U23s between now and the end of the season, with league clashes with Tottenham, Man City, Chelsea, Leicester and Man United remaining, along with a Lancashire Senior Cup semi-final against Blackpool.

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 31, 2020: Liverpool's Layton Stewart (C) celebrates after scoring the fourth goal with fellow goal-scorers Max Woltman (L) and Tyler Morton (R) during the Under-18 Premier League match between Liverpool FC Under-18's and Newcastle United FC Under-18's at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

But Stewart will also be hoping to make forays back into first-team training, having told LFCTV back in December that that was his ultimate goal.

“Hopefully, my aim is to get in and around the first team as much as I can when I’m back,” he explained.

Liverpool handed Stewart a new four-year contract last summer, soon after his injury, with the striker tied to his boyhood club until at least 2025.

Prior to his injury, Stewart had scored 17 goals and laid on three assists in 18 appearances for the academy, while in his last full season, he scored 16 and assisted seven in 23 outings.

ROCHDALE, ENGLAND - Tuesday, August 31, 2021: Liverpool's Under-18 coach Marc Bridge-Wilkinson during the pre-match warm-up before the English Football League Trophy match between Rochdale AFC and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Spotland Stadium. Rochdale won 4-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool sit top of the Western Europe group of the Al Abtal Cup, though Saudi side Future Falcons Green are level on points with the young Reds while holding a game in hand.

The final game of the group comes against Atletico Madrid, with a date for that tie yet to be confirmed.

Liverpool U19s vs. Sporting CP: Mrozek; Davidson, Miles, Jonas, Scanlon; Pilling, Mabaya, McConnell; Frauendorf, Clark, Stewart

Subs from: Hewitson, Lucky, Cannonier

Goals: Goncalves 22′; Cannonier 61′ 79′