Barclays Premier League Under-21s Division One
Liverpool vs. Manchester United
Venue: Prenton Park
Date: Friday, 11 March 2016
Kick-off: 19:00 GMT
Manchester United came from behind to seal a respectable point away at rivals Liverpool at U21 level, putting in a contrasting performance to that of the first team in Thursday night’s Europa League tie.
Despite trailing to Jerome Sinclair’s neat finish early into the second half, United showed character to obtain a positive result, with captain James Weir equalising with less than 15 minutes remaining.
United remain on course for this season’s title with just five games left, with Antonio Valencia making a welcome return after being sidelined through injury since October 25.
United, beginning on the front foot, saw a corner cleared as far as Joe Riley, who took aim and fired just wide from distance.
After finding form in recent weeks at this level, Adnan Januzaj came close to breaking the deadlock, with his free-kick striking the wall before his first time rebound crashed against the post.
Off the back of a recent hat-trick, Sheyi Ojo began to find his feet after switching flanks to the right for the home side, and his burst of pace to beat Riley led to his shot falling wide.
Ryan Kent’s free-kick was held from Joel Pereira, as Andreas Pereira, Cameron Brannagan and Paddy McNair saw yellow before the interval.
It took Liverpool less than five minutes after the break to open the scoring, with RoShaun Williams failing to deal with a high ball, allowing Kent’s pass to play in Sinclair, who made no mistake with his first time loft over the onrushing Pereira.
Kent had a shot well-held, sandwiched in-between Pereira seeing a shot blocked after Weir’s pass before forcing Danny Ward into a near post parry with a low effort.
Taking on three Liverpool defenders, Januzaj’s cross struck Steven Caulker, but despite handball claims, the referee waved play-on, with replays indicating that the ball hit Caulker’s thigh.
Substitute Alex O’Hanlon’s tame shot was held, with Ojo booked and Scott McTominay heading over from a corner for United.
Then came the equaliser, with Donald Love’s drilled cross to the back post finding Sadiq El Fitouri, whose squared ball across goal left Weir with the simply task of tapping home.
He nearly bagged his second after a fantastic run led to his left-footed attempt being tipped over.
Substitute Timothy Fosu-Mensah was booked despite being unable to avoid Ojo going to ground, and it was Ojo’s header that was saved by Pereira from the resulting free-kick.
Love was cautioned with Ojo seeing another attempt saved, with full-time concluding a fascinating watch at Prenton Park.
Unlike the first team 24 hours previous, United showed fight, desire and spirit to take something out of the game, responding well to falling behind after Liverpool began the second half the brighter of the two.
In the end it was a deserved point and fair result for Warren Joyce’s side, who reclaim top spot on goal difference from Sunderland, whilst having one game in hand.
It’s results like this, comeback draws in tough fixtures that can go a long way to seeing the U21s retain their title, and they travel to Chelsea in their next fixture, scheduled for March 20, although anticipate that to change with the Manchester derby also taking place on such date at first team level.
Manchester United: J. Pereira; Valencia (Fosu-Mensah 46), Williams, McNair, Riley; El Fitouri, McTominay, Love; A. Pereira (Poole 90+4), Januzaj (Redmond 90+2), Weir.
Subs: Fosu-Mensah, Henderson, Poole, Rothwell, Redmond.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Liverpool: Ward; Randall (Whelan 77), Skrtel (Maguire 61), Caulker, Smith; Chirivella, Brannagan; Ibe (O’Hanlon 68), Kent, Ojo; Sinclair.
Subs: Whelan, George, M. Gomes, Maguire, O’Hanlon.
Manager: Michael Beale