Jack Clarke scored a superb last-minute winner to earn our Under-23s a 4-3 victory over Liverpool in an exhilarating Premier League 2 encounter in the north west on Saturday afternoon.
Three times we had taken the lead in the clash on Merseyside with the goals all from members of our defence – Jubril Okedina (2 and 49) and Brooklyn Lyons-Foster (17) – but each time the hosts pegged us back – Liam Millar (10), Tyler Morton (43) and Jack Bearne (51) – in what was a frenetic game in stormy conditions. Both sides continued to push for a winner to the last, but it was Clarke who found the all-important goal for us in the fourth and final minute of added time, firing a venomous effort into the roof of the net.
We made an electric start and had the lead with just over a minute on the clock. Harvey White delivered a teasing cross from the right and in the centre of the box, Okedina was there to rise highest before powering the ball into the corner of the net – the second game in a row he’s been on the scoresheet.
Yet, on 10 minutes, our hosts were level through a header of their own as forward Millar leapt in the box to nod home Owen Beck’s teasing cross. The Reds then almost turned the game on its head just three minutes later, but Conor Bradley’s header spun wide of the left-hand upright.
It was us, though, who went on to get the next goal. Winning a free-kick on the edge of the box, White hit the crossbar with the set-piece, but Lyons-Foster was on hand to tap home the rebound.
Torrential conditions then descended on Liverpool’s new Academy facility but the stormy weather seemed to have little effect on the pace of the game with both teams still relentlessly harrying each other. The Reds were proving dangerous on the counter-attack and on 43 minutes it was on the break that they once again got back on terms. Full-back Beck burst into the box and made his way to the byline before cutting it back for the lurking Morton, who picked his spot and levelled the scores once more.
When the game restarted after the break, it was almost deja vu for us as the opening moments of the second period played out just as the first had started. Once again, we began on the front foot, flew forward and won a corner. Once more it was taken by White and the result of it was the same, Okedina leaping to meet the ball before planting it into the corner of the net to restore our advantage. Yet, just two minutes later, Liverpool were level once more. Bearne was the man to stroke home the hosts’ third equaliser of the afternoon but it was once again Beck who was at the heart of the move with the full-back squaring the ball across the box for the tap-in – his third assist of the game.
As the game approached the hour mark, the rain and wind began to calm and so did the action. It had been a high-octane bout between two dynamic sides but there was a feeling like the two teams were just reserving energy for one final push to find a winner.
With 15 minutes to go, there were signs that the game’s tempo had been raised back up a notch. Liverpool were beginning to flex their muscles at pace down our right-hand side once more and came close to taking the lead for the first time in the game on 75 minutes, but Bearne curled wide from range. Swiftly though, we were on the move down the other end and Marcel Lavinier managed to draw the best out of Vitezslav Jaros as the Reds’ goalkeeper had to show his reflexes to tip the full-back’s deflected looping effort over the bar. Moments later, Clarke then spurned a glorious chance to win the game as he skewed wide from the edge of the box after his drive towards the defence.
But the winger made no mistake when his next opportunity came – with just seconds of the game remaining, the former Leeds United man lashed the ball home on the break to earn us all three points.