Liverpool U21's hosted FA Youth Cup winners Chelsea on Sunday morning as they kicked off their league campaigns, hoping for an encouraging display at Langtree Park. A last-minute finish from Tammy Abraham, created by Man of the Match Charly Musonda, saw off the hosts in cruel fashion as he calmly slotted the ball past Ryan Fulton into the bottom corner after an entertaining but tight contest in truth.
Omissions and loans - familiar faces and talented teens galore
Both sides had some notable omissions as well as familiar faces with a few talented youngsters out on respective loan spells elsewhere in Europe. Sheyi Ojo joined Wolves on a loan deal, whilst Jordon Ibe has established himself with the club's first-team as well as Jordan Rossiter and Dan Trickett-Smith was not in the matchday squad for the hosts. However, they boasted depth in the fact they had Harry Wilson, Sergi Canos and Cameron Brannagan amongst other talented youngsters in the starting eleven.
Isaiah Brown and Dominic Solanke - the dynamic duo who contributed massively to the Blues' title charge last term, have both been loaned out to Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem on season-long loan deals, so you'd expect them to become first-team mainstays once they gain regular experience in another European league.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has asserted his first-team credentials and is now fighting for a regular spot in José Mourinho's midfield, whilst Lewis Baker is also at Vitesse and Charlie Colkett was ruled out ahead of this clash through injury.
An intriguing first-half
The Reds did their best to isolate the ever-imposing threat of the Chelsea attack up-top, and were unlucky not to break the deadlock just two minutes in after captain Cameron Brannagan's effort crashed off the crossbar. Michael Beale's youngsters could have made it two in quick succession, but for a quick reaction save from goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney to deny Sergi Canos as Fikayo Tomori did well to sweep up the danger with Jerome Sinclair lurking.
Chelsea then enjoyed the lion share of possession for the rest of the first 45, but were not able to make their half-chances count as the final ball was lacking.
Chelsea dominate the second 45
At the break, the sides were level and no alterations were made ahead of the second-half. You could assume that Adi Viveash had instructed his side to be more aggressive goalwards, as they had virtually pinned their opponents back into their own half of the field for the majority of the second period.
Encouragingly though, the hosts' defence was resolute and robust as Dan Cleary and Connor Randall especially made some important interceptions and tackles to deny the Blues from creating even more goal-scoring opportunities than they had.
Kasey Palmer was fairly eyecatching as he was eager to make things happen from the base of midfield, driving forward on a few runs towards goal - but he often took a touch too many or his final pass was overhit, giving Liverpool the chance to scamper the ball to safety. His dribbling, especially at speed, was a menace to defend against, something which brought Cleary's name into the referee's book halfway through the second 45.
Coincidentally, the resulting free-kick, which was in a dangerous area, was wasted - just reiterating the point. Then, with twenty minutes to play, Sinclair missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring.
He picked up the ball near the edge of the area, taking advantage of a mistake made by Tomori, and after weaving his way towards goal his close-range effort fired inches wide of the far post with Beeney stranded.
Both sides made full use of their substitutions; Ryan Kent, Jack Dunn and Samed Yesil coming on for the hosts whilst Dion Conroy, Kevin Wirght and Miro Muheim came on into the fray - none of which had much time or opportunity to assert their presence in the game.
With the clock ticking down on the entertaining affair, both sides knew they needed to snatch a goal. It was the visitors, who did just that - just moments after Randall watched on in agony as his low effort flashing wide of the mark from a smart pull-back courtesy of Wilson near the byline. Musonda, who had controlled the game excellently in a holding midfield role throughout, burst forward on a slaloming run and the Liverpool backline simply could not handle him, before he unselfishly squared the ball to Abraham in space ahead.
Tammy, who loves to score, opened his account for the 2015/16 season with a cool finish, albeit a cruel time to score; which the Blues will be relieved to take home with them.