U21s Semi-finals: Liverpool vs United @ Anfield

jb8521

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Got called into fecking work this evening just when this was about to kick off, but luckily (and thanks to MUTV's free-to-air coverage) set it to record, and I've just watched it.

Great game, fantastic performance from the lads against a much older (and less injury-struck) side. I thought we were fairly in control for the entire match until the last ten or so minutes when we really let them come at us. But that obviously had a lot to do with players going off injured and cramp setting in for others. Overall we were definitely the better team, and a 2-0 win would have better reflected the actual balance of the match.

Liverpool probably had more possession but we're not talking about us sitting back and letting them play here - most of it came from their centre-backs being oddly willing to just sit on the ball for big chunks of the first half. In the first half in particular, their midfield struggled to keep hold of the ball for any time at all, thanks to Pearson and Rothwell. They showed a surprising lack of ambition as the home side. But then I guess I'd have set my side out pretty cautiously if I knew a player like James Wilson was going to be waiting to pounce on any errors. Even with their cagey first-half game plan he was unlucky not to capitalise on that mistake five minutes in when he hit the post.

Everyone was excellent today, and big kudos to the back four - it's amazing that a defence with so few proper defenders in it is the tightest in the league. Huge achievement from them, Charni and Paddy in particular. However, if I had to pick three stand-out performers they'd be:

-Lawrence: It's easy to forget the whole generation of talent we have out on loan at the moment and just think about the younger set of Wilson, Pearson and Rothwell, but Lawrence sure as hell reminded us tonight. Looked light-years ahead of any Liverpool player in terms of his ability on the ball. There were a couple of incredible mazy runs where they just couldn't get near him and he seemed to weave past practically every red player on the pitch!

-Rothwell and Pearson: Lumped them together because although they'd make this list as individuals, it was their partnership that really stood out tonight. They complement each other beautifully. Rothwell is so positive, especially in the way he defends - harrying, chasing down, throwing himself into controlled but aggressive tackles. His energy levels are ridiculous, and his intelligence and attacking prowess were there for all to see too. Next to him, Pearson is just magic. So, so canny for a youngster. I swear sometimes he seems to have a teleporter in his pocket, the way he bursts out of nowhere to claim every single loose ball in our half, to nip in and steal every fifty-fifty. I lost count of how many times Rothwell slid in to knock the ball off a harassed-looking 'pool defender and Pearson materialised to take it neatly into his stride. Perfect partnership. Both could have scored with strong efforts on goal, too.

-Pereira: I've finally got a recorded match so my dad can get a glimpse of the players I rave about to him constantly, and this match couldn't have summed Pereira up much better. Technically sublime; I felt quite sorry for Liverpool's RB in the second half with Pereira, Lawrence and James running glittering rings around him. Like Lawrence, he looked like a man amongst boys when he had the ball at his feet (ironic given that he was presumably(?) the youngest starter on the pitch). And the goal was typical of the sort of strikes he is capable of producing at any time and against any opponent. That said, he was pretty invisible for much of the first half. He still needs to learn how to get his foot in the door in games where the possession isn't coming to him of its own accord. That aside, however, his goal seemed to energise him and after that he was key to most of our second-half attacks.

A few slight disappointments amongst the positives:
-Wilson seemed a little off the pace (understandably), and it was a shame that in the first half we weren't able to bring him into the play more. But some credit for that has to go to Liverpool; their wary, low-risk-passing approach probably cost them the game, but it was effective at keeping Wilson away from the ball and from support when he did manage to get on it.
-Our right wing wasn't able to match the effectiveness of our left. I don't know what the point of Varela and Janko swapping positions half way through was supposed to be, but it didn't appear to do any good, and I'm not surprised Lawrence ended up focussing his efforts on linking up with Pereira and Reece James in the second half.
-All the injuries! I hope we haven't lost too many of the lads who had to go off.

/ramble
Varela was put man marking Teixeira after about 25 minutes. Up until that point Teixeira was very prominent and after it he was invisible because Varela gave him no space. Its by no means a glamorous job and sacrificed Varela to a degree but played a huge part in us winning the game as it nullified their main playmaker. I thought it was a great piece of management from Joyce
 

Brightonian

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Varela was put man marking Teixeira after about 25 minutes. Up until that point Teixeira was very prominent and after it he was invisible because Varela gave him no space. Its by no means a glamorous job and sacrificed Varela to a degree but played a huge part in us winning the game as it nullified their main playmaker. I thought it was a great piece of management from Joyce
Ah fair enough, that's a good shout now that I think about it. I didn't notice it because I don't think Texeira was that prominent - at that point none of their players were effectively threatening us, but Brannagan looked marginally more dangerous than Texiera, who was passing nicely but not threateningly. However, you are right that he disappeared completely after our switch and I'd completely failed to make the connection. So fair play, great decision by Joyce.

EDIT: On an unconnected note, I've just read the match-report on the Liverpool official site, and it's surprisingly unbiased. I'd have expected them to put some serious scouse spin on it - certainly I've seen our official site report our losses with a very generous slant in the past - but it basically gives credit where credit's due and recognises that we were the better side in a well-balanced encounter. Worth a read, actually.
 

Ramshock

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You're having a laugh. our team last night was very young and small. The Man City forwards dwarfed our defenders and our centre forward is about 5'7". We're a very fast and skillful side at youth level, not a bunch of bruisers.

Also, you lot had a 24 year old playing tonight!
Ben Amos not like he was bossing them around midfield. When did Chelsea get small? Is Feruz still at Chelsea?
 

Brightonian

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Also, you lot had a 24 year old playing tonight!
Yes, in goal. Other than that, our side is incredibly young. There's a whole generation of our players out on loan who could be playing in these matches. And one in the first team who could almost be playing in the age group below, let alone this match.
 
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limerickcitykid

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Yes, in goal. Other than that, our side is incredibly young. There's a whole generation of our players out on loan who could be playing in these matches. And one in the first team who could still be playing in the age group below, let alone this match.
Adnan Januzaj can't play u18 could he? Wouldn't he be a u19 like Rothwell and Pearson?
 

Brightonian

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Adnan Januzaj can't play u18 could he? Wouldn't he be a u19 like Rothwell and Pearson?
Ach yeah sorry, edited that to 'almost' (he's only a few months past his birthday) but for some reason I can't make edits actually go through at the moment. Trying again now.
 

khoazany

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Ben Amos not like he was bossing them around midfield. When did Chelsea get small? Is Feruz still at Chelsea?
Tbf they have many pacey and technical players in their side.Baker,Swift,Boga,... all technically outstanding talent IMO.I wouldn't call them a small side though but they're by no mean a physical side.
 

khoazany

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Yes, in goal. Other than that, our side is incredibly young. There's a whole generation of our players out on loan who could be playing in these matches. And one in the first team who could almost be playing in the age group below, let alone this match.
I doubt you can take it as an argument - it's the same for every team.I wouldn't say our side is incredibly young but certainly one of the younger side at this level.
 

Brightonian

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I doubt you can take it as an argument - it's the same for every team.I wouldn't say our side is incredibly young but certainly one of the younger side at this level.
It's really not, at this level. Not to the same degree. No other top PL side uses the English loan system as extensively or aggressively as we do at the moment, getting kids loan spells so early in their careers. Right now the sheer volume of talent coming through from the U16s and U18s is forcing us to choose: either send people out on loan as soon as it's an option, or let young talents get stuck behind older players. Fortunately we are now really embracing the former option.

To be fair, since I can't be arsed to actually go and check, I can't state this as a fact. But it certainly seems that way to me at the moment. Lingard, Thorpe, Michael Keane, Will Keane, Powell, Zaha, Vermijl, and Blackett all qualify to play U21 football. Instead the vast majority 18- and 19-year-olds. Even younger lads are getting chances too - Willock was on the bench today, and he's only 17. Hell, Pereira's been a key player this season and he was 17 for half of it.
 

khoazany

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To be fair, since I can't be arsed to actually go and check, I can't state this as a fact. But it certainly seems that way to me at the moment. Lingard, Thorpe, Michael Keane, Will Keane, Powell, Zaha, Vermijl, and Blackett all qualify to play U21 football. Instead the vast majority 18- and 19-year-olds. Even younger lads are getting chances too - Willock was on the bench today, and he's only 17. Hell, Pereira's been a key player this season and he was 17 for half of it.
Chelsea,Liverpool and some other teams like Fulham also fall into the same category.Every team has players who's passed the U21s level and gone on loan.We have a loads of them this season but you generally shouldn't count the loaned players in the argument.

We're not the youngest side at this level either for sure.Boga,Loftus-Cheek,Brown,Kiwomya,Christensen,Aina have been regular for Chelsea U21s and still eligible for the U18s,for examples.

Of course winner takes it all at the end of the day, no matter of the age.
 

Ekeke

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Yeah Chelsea's team is impressively young. And their top scorer in the league is Baker, a 19 year old central midfielder with 11 goals. Although I believe several of his goals are from penalties and probably some freekicks too as he takes them. www.transfermarkt.co.uk also credits him with 7 assists. Baker is 2nd top scorer in the under 21s league this season behind City's Jordi Hiwula at the top

They have 8 goals from 18 year old John Swift and 7 assists from him too. 8 goals from 17 year old Isaiah Brown, 7 from 18 year old Islam Feruz and 3 from 18 year old Andreas Christensen from defence.

We'll be in for quite a match and its more than likely their team will be a bit younger than ours.
 

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Yeah, Chelsea are probably up there with us on that front, that's fair. Although I'd maintain that we could theoretically play far more players who are out on loan than they could - I never claimed that other teams aren't doing it too, just that no side is doing it to the same extent that we are at the moment.

Also can't help but point out in response to this -

Yeah Chelsea's team is impressively young. And their top scorer in the league is Baker, a 19 year old central midfielder with 11 goals
- that our own top scorer, recently 19, has 20 goals this season. No real point there (I know Baker's more of an AM than a striker). I just like to hype Wilson. :D

You're right, anyway, we're in for a hell of a match. Actually I'd say they're favourites, especially given the way so many of our key players are going to have to limp over the line with injury and fitness problems.
 

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I'd agree they've gotta be favourites. I mean they finished top for a reason and most of the young players mentioned have played a lot of games at under 21 level whereas our games are spread between 40 players this season...

Chelsea have a lot of notable players out on loan who could play too including Lucas Piazon, one of the better attackers in the Netherlands this season and Kurt Zouma at Saint Etienne.

Matej Delac is on loan at FK Sarajevo, Thorgan Hazard at SV Zulte Waregem. Courtois at Atletico. Wallace at Inter. Bertrand Traoré at Vitesse, Cristian Cuevas at FC Eindhoven, Stipe Perica at NAC Breda, Romelu Lukaku at Everton.

Of course they also bought these players from foreign clubs.

There is Patrick Bamford too, he's English. They did buy him from Forest though. Todd Kane a defender on loan at Blackburn, Billy Clifford on loan at Royal Antwerp. Chalobah on loan at Boro, Kenneth Omeruo also at Boro. George Saville at Brentford, Milan Lalkovič at Walsal, Josh McEachran at Wigan

There's Kakuta and Romeu both on loan who are 22 as well.

So yeah Chelsea have a lot of players in this age group who are out on loan. Most of them were foreign players signed from foreign clubs after making their debuts, but still. There are also some academy and English players too
 

Eric'sCollar

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Great to hear about this result and performance. Especially the likes of Pearson and Rothwell doing well in the middle again.
 

Sid234

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Chelsea have amassed an amazing pool of talented players aged 17-21.. if they give them enough chances and develop them well, they actually don't need to invest in new signings for the next 3-4 seasons at the very least.. But of course they will still spend millions on buying established players coz that's Roman's style..
 

The Man Himself

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Unfortunate loss. Thought we were the better side and if it wasn't for abysmal finishing near the end we'd have won. Shame Rossiter was injured as he's such a good young player and would've made a big difference.

Incredible goal scored by you lot and I thought Lawrence was very good for you.
Better side? Are you kidding and me and did you even watch the game? Liverpool only woke up in last 10 minutes, when they attacked in numbers and United looked to hold on to the lead. We lost our attacking trio to injury and had to contain. Sure Liverpool had very good chances in last 10 minutes but so did we earlier in game with Wilson hitting post in first half. United were comfortably better than liverpool till 82nd minute.
 

khoazany

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Yeah, Chelsea are probably up there with us on that front, that's fair. Although I'd maintain that we could theoretically play far more players who are out on loan than they could - I never claimed that other teams aren't doing it too, just that no side is doing it to the same extent that we are at the moment.

Also can't help but point out in response to this -



- that our own top scorer, recently 19, has 20 goals this season. No real point there (I know Baker's more of an AM than a striker). I just like to hype Wilson. :D

You're right, anyway, we're in for a hell of a match. Actually I'd say they're favourites, especially given the way so many of our key players are going to have to limp over the line with injury and fitness problems.
Baker and Swift actually have 15-16 goals for each of them (all competitions).We're facing a tough challenge in the final with them both likely to start on midfield.
 

duffer

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Ben Amos not like he was bossing them around midfield. When did Chelsea get small? Is Feruz still at Chelsea?
We've not had a "big" youth/reserve team for a long time.

Feruz is still there, he is the tiny, 18 year old striker I was talking about.

Yes, in goal. Other than that, our side is incredibly young. There's a whole generation of our players out on loan who could be playing in these matches. And one in the first team who could almost be playing in the age group below, let alone this match.
You wanna talk about better, eligible players being out on loan? We could have Courtois in goal and Lukaku upfront! Also Kalas and Ake have missed the semis because they have been called up to the top first team squad, they might come back in for the final.

Alex Kiwomya might be fit for the final, he is a lightning fast(was the national youth 100 champion) 17 year old forward/winger, he missed the semi through illness but will start the final if he is fit.
 

LR7

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That said, he was pretty invisible for much of the first half. He still needs to learn how to get his foot in the door in games where the possession isn't coming to him of its own accord. That aside, however, his goal seemed to energise him and after that he was key to most of our second-half attacks.
Pereira seemed to be well up for the game from early on in the sense that he was closing people down, harrying and getting stuck in, but I don't think he channelled that enthusiasm effectively in the first half and was particularly a bit sloppy in possession. The goal galvanised him though and the second half was a much more mature performance. He made more of a difference and was able to be more impactful and positively effective. Right up to the final whistle when he was stuck isolated up top he was still closing people down like crazy, pressing from the front showing a lot of desire and giving everything. Good performance in the end, that really evolved as the game went on.
 

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Pereira seemed to be well up for the game from early on in the sense that he was closing people down, harrying and getting stuck in, but I don't think he channelled that enthusiasm effectively in the first half and was particularly a bit sloppy in possession. The goal galvanised him though and the second half was a much more mature performance. He made more of a difference and was able to be more impactful and positively effective. Right up to the final whistle when he was stuck isolated up top he was still closing people down like crazy, pressing from the front showing a lot of desire and giving everything. Good performance in the end, that really evolved as the game went on.
Yep, good post. He certainly put massive effort in defensively for the whole 90 minutes, as did the whole team.
 

khoazany

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We've not had a "big" youth/reserve team for a long time.

Feruz is still there, he is the tiny, 18 year old striker I was talking about.
Heard that Feruz is quite disappointing this season isn't it?Brown and Solanke sounds likely to overtake him in the near future.
 

Suli

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Any idea when the date/location of the final will be released? If it's at Stamford Bridge then I'll be able to go. Hopefully there's a decent turn out of reds.