Ben Doak left the field with a hobble as 10-man Liverpool under-21s saw their time in the EFL Trophy come to an end in a 4-0 defeat at Bradford, despite their best efforts.
Bradford 4-0 Liverpool U21s
EFL Trophy Round of 32, University of Bradford Stadium
December 5, 2023
Goals: Smith 7′, 95′, Cook 49′, Vadaine 64′
Sent off: Koumas 31′
It was a tough night for the first ever appearance in the knockout round of the EFL Trophy, with Barry Lewtas‘ young Reds up against League Two’s 14th-placed side, Bradford.
Regular faces in first-team training, Doak, Calum Scanlon and Luke Chambers were all surprise starters, adding some experience to a side boasting two 16-year-old centre-backs.
The hosts named a strong side – with just three changes from their last league game – and scored the first goal after just seven minutes when Tyler Smith jostled himself into position in the middle of the box and fired an unstoppable strike beyond Fabian Mrozek.
The referee was often quick to blow his whistle in favour of the hosts, but even when Doak was shoved to the ground with an elbow to the back of the head, there was nothing doing.
Only when Doak took a heavy tackle did the whistle blow some minutes later as the Reds tried to get a foot hold in the game, and Polish stopper Mrozek was key to that at the other end with an athletic save.
At the half hour mark, though, Liverpool’s task only became harder as they went down to 10 men, with Lewis Koumas‘ rash tackle leaving the Reds with no complaints over the colour of the card.
HT: Bradford 1-0 Liverpool U21s
The quick and nimble feet of Mateusz Musialowski and Doak were giving Liverpool hope and opportunity throughout, but the end product was, crucially, missing.
That was not the case for 14-year professional Andy Cook, who placed his finish beyond Mrozek to make it 2-0, all the while Chambers protested a challenge near the touchline that led to the goal.
The pressure was then turned up. Mrozek pulled off a great low save, but he couldn’t contain a long-range strike and Bradford capitalised for their third of the evening.
Doak hobbled off the field with 20 minutes remaining and Liverpool will hope it is just a bad case of cramps for the 18-year-old, who has had limited playing time this season.
A tough night for the young Reds, who conceded a fourth in stoppage time, as they bowed out of the competition.
But all things considered, they more than held their own against senior professionals, 60 minutes of which were with 10 men.
Liverpool U21s: Mrozek; Miles (Piling 81′), Pinnington, Nallo, Chambers; McConnell, Nyoni (Hill 65′), Musialowski (Davidson 81′); Doak (Frauendorf 70′), Scanlon (Blair 65′), Koumas
Subs not used: Kelly, Spearing