Waterford United 0-6 Liverpool U21s: Young Reds get pre-season tour off to strong start

Liverpool under-21s got their pre-season tour in Ireland off to a fine start with a dominant 6-0 win against Waterford United at a sunny Regional Sports Centre on Friday afternoon.

Jack Dunn's 29th minute strike from inside the box gave the visitors the lead, and after a raft of changes at half-time - Ryan McLaughlin added a second early into the second-half.

Samed Yesil missed a Liverpool penalty on the hour mark, but the away side regrouped to fire four goals in 10 minutes - Sergi Canos and Sam Hart adding further strikes before Yesil atoned for his spot-kick miss by scoring twice to seal an impressive opening victory.

Liverpool far from convincing early on

With a number of regulars out with the senior squad on their pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia, Michael Beale was forced to field a slightly weakened side, as he used 20 different players throughout the course of the game.

Liverpool's youngest ever player and highly-rated Academy prospect Jerome Sinclair started up-front, with the likes of Cameron Brannagan, Samed Yesil and Sergi Canos also getting game time.

But it was the hosts who began the brighter side and enjoyed more of the possession in the opening period, despite being unable to fashion any clear opportunities for themselves.

That meant there very few chances of note inside the opening 20 minutes, but the away side found their stride. Sinclair showed his quality in the 21st, cutting inside, opening up space for himself and drilling a low effort towards goal - but Matthew Connor was able to gather the shot comfortably. 

Jack Dunn leads the way for rejuvenated Reds

Liverpool soon started to gather momentum and came close to opening the scoring just minutes before the half-hour mark, as Jack Dunn picked the ball up in a central area and spun goalwards before forcing Connor into tipping a strike just past the post.

But from the resulting corner-kick, the young Reds broke the deadlock as Dunn showed good feet before sliding the ball low past Connor after Waterford failed to clear the loose ball.

The inspired 20-year-old midfielder continued to cause all kinds of problems for the home side, dropping deep to pick up possession before turning and driving towards goal and firing a 25-yard strike which skimmed the top of the crossbar.

Liverpool were in full swing as Sinclair, who has recently been in the headlines due to concerns over his future, sidestepped a challenge before stinging Connor's palms at the 'keeper's near post.

This time though, they couldn't convert and on the counter-attack - Waterford almost took advantage of Lawrence Vigouroux's lapse in concentration. 

The ex-Tottenham Hotspur shot-stopper was caught off his line as skipper Tom Brewitt's underhit pass allowed Anthony McAlavey to steal in and take the ball, but his 40-yard lob strayed wide. 

Aside from that rare opportunity, Beale's men forced Waterford back into their own-half as they struggled to live with Dunn.

Again dropping deep and coming inside, the striker - who excelled on loan at Cheltenham Town last season - saw his curled effort come back off the woodwork in the final attack before half-time.

Liverpool come firing out of the blocks after half-time

At the break, the Reds made nine substitutions - only for Will Marsh to be forced off just three minutes after coming on. That meant Ovie Ejaria had to come back on in his place, but the changes did little to disrupt their dominance, and they added to the lead just six minutes into the second-half.

Right-back Ryan McLaughlin, playing further up the flank, latched on to a through ball before charging into the area and placing beyond Connor to make it 2-0. 

Only two minutes later, the Republic of Ireland international almost added another goal - but after being released down the left, he could only find the side-netting.

Just like Dunn, it was McLaughlin who was the visitors' livewire after the interval - dribbling past his markers with ease down the left before driving a low effort past the far post.

Visitors put the gloss on straight-forward victory

Liverpool looked increasingly likely to put the game out of sight after half-time substitute Yesil won a penalty-kick after going down inside the box under a poor challenge.

But the German, who stood up to the plate himself, saw his spot-kick saved by substitute goalkeeper Robert Birdsall - who had only come on minutes before. 

However, Birdsall was resigned to picking the ball out of his net more often than he made saves in the final 20 minutes. Canos converted from Conor Randall's square ball, firing high past the Waterford 'keeper to make it 3-0. 

And as soon as it was a three-nil lead, Sam Hart made it four - tapping in from close-range after a well-worked team move .

Yet Liverpool were far from done, and having missed a penalty earlier in the game - Yesil made amends by netting a quickfire brace, slotting in from two right-sided cross to complete a comfortable rout.

Under-21s to take on UCD next 

The win marked the first of several friendlies for the club's Academy, with the Reds' under-18s, who beat Cork City 2-0 last week thanks to goals from Toni Gomes and Yan Dhanda, taking on Galway United on Saturday. 

The under-21s meanwhile, will go head-to-head with UCD in Dublin before returning back to England for further friendlies against PSV, PortoChester and Morecambe before they open their league campaign at home to Chelsea.

Teams 

Waterford XI: Connor (Birdsall 62'), Reidy, Nugent, Mackey, Corcoran, O'Connor, McAlavey, Galvin, Burke (Fitzpatrick 45'), Boyle, Galvin. 

Liverpool first-half XI: Vigouroux, Paez, Hart, Brewitt, Virtue, O'Hanlon, Gomes, Ejaria, Dunn, Phillips, Sinclair. 

Liverpool second-half XI: Firth, Randall, Whelan, Paez, Polgar, O'Hanlon, Marsh (Ejaria 49'), Brannagan, Yesil, Canos, McLaughlin.

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