The two greats of English football cancelled each other out in a cagey display at Anfield Friday night. Jordan Lussey took maximum advantage of a free-kick, before United responded only four minutes later. Tom Lawrence scored his second in two games, but James Weir deserves his eventual goal bonus after providing a sublime assist.
In the first minute of the game, Saidy Janko took advantage of a mistiming from Liverpool’s left back, and squared it for Josh Harrop. Unfortunately, the 18-year-old was unable to hit the target from just outside the box.
Four minutes into it, Joe Rothwell was extremely fortunate to evade a booking, as he stamped on an opponents ankle. That was somewhere near the trademark of this tight game, and United later picked up three bookings later; Thorpe, Pearson and Harrop were the three United names in the referee’s book.
A blink of an eye later, Rothwell was in the limelight again. Tom Lawrence nodded a long pass on to him, but the long range effort didn’t trouble the keeper.
After 25 minutes, Josh Harrop had a decent opportunity to put United ahead. Liverpool were caught out of balance as Harrop dispossessed Cameron Brannagan, and he managed to pull off a goal-bound shot. Unfortunately for United, two Liverpool lads threw themselves into it and blocked the effort.
The hosts were close to grabbing the opening goal when Brannagan hit the post. He dispossessed Andreas Pereira through a tug of the shirt (it would’ve been interesting to hear the referee’s reason for not awarding a free kick), played it to their striker Ojo, before he got it back outside the box. As mentioned, the effort took a slight deflection off the post before going wide.
36 minutes into the game, Paddy McNair was on a rare visit in Liverpool’s box. Andreas Pereira crossed in a free-kick. Initially the defender was destined to get a header on target, but the cross dipped a little bit, he got caught in two minds and shinned it by the post and wide.
The first opportunity in the second half took place when Ben Pearson made a free-kick on the edge of United’s box. The triggerhappy Brannagan stepped away and Harry Wilson tried to curl it over the wall and find the bottom corner. Pearson was probably the most delighted outfield player around when Joel Pereira pulled off a very decent diving save to deny Liverpool the lead.
Liverpool pushed on towards The Kop and finally got their reward just after the hour mark. A doubious situation occured when Thorpe tackled an attacker in the same moment as Kristoffer Peterson was played offside. The referee gave the free-kick and Jordan Lussey found the bottom corner, punishing Joel Pereira for taking a «cheat» step in behind the wall. (That was the step that made his earlier save possible.)
United didn’t need much time to respond. The subbed-on James Weir had a run down the left hand side, played a one-two pass with Harrop, got past his man and squared it for Tom Lawrence. The Welsh striker couldn’t even miss if he tried and United got United back on level terms.
Five minutes from time, the Scousers was only a Swiss-Portuguese goalkeeper away from going in front. They were awarded a free-kick and United anticipated a set-up of a wall and all that, which never happened. The striker Ojo took it quickly and sent Sergi Canos one-on-one with the keeper as United didn’t pay attention, but Pereira dug United out of a dig hole, managing to only concede a corner kick.
Summa summarum, United do still need some time to adjust to the 5-2-1-2. Liverpool away is obviously never an easy fixture, but the lads got away in an all right fashion. However, they didn’t exploit the attacking potential of the formation/players as much as wanted.
McNair Thorpe Vermilj
Janko Pearson Rothwell Evans (Weir 55)
Unused subs: O’Hara, Grimshaw, Goss, Willock