LEEDS, ENGLAND - Monday, February 7, 2022: Liverpool's James Balagizi during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Leeds FC Under-23's and Liverpool FC Under-23's at Elland Road. Leeds United won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool U23s hold Man City as ‘keeper keeps clean sheet on surprise debut

Liverpool held the Premier League 2 champions-elect Man City to a 0-0 draw at the Etihad on Sunday night, as goalkeeper Oscar Kelly debuted with a clean sheet.

Man City U23s 0-0 Liverpool U23s

Premier League 2, Etihad
March 20, 2022

While the first team were setting up a second meeting with Man City in a week as they progress to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, their under-23s were in action at the Etihad.

Injuries to Harvey Davies and Fabian Mrozek, along with Marcelo Pitaluga travelling with the senior squad to Nottingham Forest, led to a weekend of debuts between the sticks.

On Saturday, Luke Hewitson made his under-18s bow in their 1-1 draw with Derby, before warming the bench for 19-year-old Kelly, who made his long-awaited U23s debut against the league leaders.

Kelly has been with Liverpool since under-9s level, but has consistently found himself behind high-profile starters in the battle for the No. 1 shirt.

CHESTER, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 13, 2019: Liverpool's substitutes bench goalkeeper Oscar Kelly, Fidel O'Rourke, Jack Bearne and Elijah Dixon-Bonner during the FA Youth Cup 5th Round match between Liverpool FC and Wigan Athletic FC at the Deva Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A clean sheet at the Etihad, however, will no doubt increase his admirers in the academy setup – along with his confidence, after a number of seasons as a training goalkeeper.

The trip to Manchester saw a return to the starting lineup for James Balagizi, while both Conor Bradley and Tyler Morton were given starts as Owen Beck, another on the fringes of the first team, was called up to Jurgen Klopp‘s bench.

It was a close contest between the two modern rivals, with Max Woltman going closest for Liverpool in the first half with a goal ruled out for a tight offside, while Kelly was called into action to make a number of fine saves.

The best chance of the game fell to Reds substitute Dominic Corness, who was unable to hit the target from close range in stoppage time, leaving the two sides to share the points.

STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND - Tuesday, November 9, 2021: Liverpool's Under-23's head coach Barry Lewtas during the English Football League Trophy match between Port Vale FC and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Vale Park. Port Vale won 5-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Speaking after the game, U23s manager Barry Lewtas praised his stand-in stopper, telling the club’s official website: “Oscar was fantastic for us on his debut.

“[He] made a couple of good saves. He did unbelievably well, his distribution was excellent and he made good decisions.”

The result does little to impact the Premier League 2 table, though Liverpool are still in with a chance of finishing among the top four as they face Chelsea, Leicester and Man United in the final three games of the league campaign.

Liverpool U23s: Kelly; Bradley (Corness 78′), R.Williams, Koumetio (Quansah 66′), Norris; Clarkson, Clayton, Morton; Bearne, Balagizi (O’Rourke 69′), Woltman

Subs not used: Hewitson, Wilson

Next match: Chelsea (H) – Premier League 2 – Sunday, April 3, 2pm (BST)