Ben Doak made his return following a head injury, but the Liverpool under-21s were knocked out of the cup by Crystal Palace amid “bizarre” decisions.
Liverpool U21s 0-1 Crystal Palace U21s
PL International Cup Quarter-Final, AXA Training Centre
March 31, 2023
Goals: Akinwale 34′
There was fury at the AXA Training Centre on Friday night, with the young Reds denied two late handball shouts as they pursued a late equaliser.
Defeat to Crystal Palace means Liverpool miss out on a spot in the semi-finals of the Premier League International Cup, having previously overcome Dinamo Zagreb, Paris Saint-Germain, SC Braga and Hertha Berlin.
It came on a night when Doak returned from an enforced spell on the sidelines, with a clash of heads in the UEFA Youth League meaning he missed Scotland under-21s duty.
The right winger was Liverpool’s biggest threat throughout, but Palace took the lead in the first half through Victor Akinwale and ultimately held on.
Akinwale’s goal even came in rather controversial circumstances, with Billy Koumetio left waving for a foul that never came as the striker rounded Marcelo Pitaluga and tucked the ball in.
Doak’s pace and dribbling ability saw him carve out a number of chances after the break, including one tipped wide by Palace goalkeeper Owen Goodman.
Layton Stewart and Bobby Clark also had opportunities spurned, and late on referee Aaron Bannister waved off two appeals for handball in the box.
They came as full-time drew near, first when Koumetio saw a close-range effort blocked and then as Doak’s cross was intercepted, with club journalist Andy Kelly describing the referee’s display as “bizarre.”
“The whole crowd saw the handball by Palace, somehow the ref didn’t,” Kelly wrote on Twitter, while The Athletic’s James Pearce claimed it was a “blatant handball.”
Regardless, the cup run ends for Liverpool, who are next in action on Monday afternoon when they host Brighton in the league.
Liverpool U21s: Pitaluga; Jonas, Olufunwa (Beck 68′), Koumetio, Norris; Corness, Stephenson, Clark; Doak, Woltman (Blair 76′), Stewart
Subs not used: Hughes, McConnell, Koumas
Next match: Brighton U21 (H) – Premier League 2 – Monday, April 3, 2pm (BST)