New manager, new players and fresh controversy – Liverpool u23s’ season so far

Academy correspondent SAM JONES recounts the young Reds’ season so far, which has been nothing if not eventful…

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Liverpool u23s have put together a strong start to the season, but do not play again until October 17, making this a perfect time to review the campaign so far.

Going into the season, the squad took a hit when defender Ki-Jana Hoever departed the club for Wolverhampton Wanderers, and players such as Neco Williams, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott saw their roles in the first team increased. The latter is the only one of the three to still regularly feature for the u23 side.

But as some move on to new roles, it leaves an opening for others from the u18 squad to step up, with players like Leighton Clarkson and Jake Cain stepping up.

Defender Nathaniel Phillips also came back into the squad after a season with Stuttgart in Germany, although there are rumours that the former Bolton man may be set for a loan move to the Championship.


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On top of those being promoted, there is also new goalkeeper Marcelo Pitaluga, though there are still question marks around which team the Brazilian will primarily play for. It has been reported that he will train with the first team, but at just 17 years old there will be questions about whether he is ready to represent the u23s.

As well as the many changes on the pitch, there is a new face in the dugout as u18 boss Barry Lewtas stepped up to fill the boots of Neil Critchley, who departed to take over as first team manager at Blackpool.

In the prior season Liverpool finished fifth in the table, but they were unable to finish the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this the team will have been looking to come out stronger this term.

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The young Reds started the season with a Merseyside derby. New boss Lewtas got off to a winning start in this game, guiding his side to a 1-0 victory. Midfielder Jake Cain, who made his first team debut in the FA Cup last term, scored the only goal of an ultimately uneventful game.

Following on from the Everton game, the u23 side faced Derby County with Lewtas looking to build upon the success of the first game. Cain once again got his name on the scoresheet, making it 1-0 after just 12 minutes.

However, Liverpool fell short in the game, conceding two to The Rams before the half time whistle without reply.

Off the back of the Derby defeat, the Reds faced arch rivals Manchester United. The game against the Red Devils was full of goals and controversy – the back of the net rippled eight times, and two red cards were shown.

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Liverpool roared into a 3-0 lead, with Leighton Clarkson, Ben Woodburn and Jack Bearne putting the Reds in a comfortable position after half an hour.

United did manage to claw one back however with Anthony Elanga on 36 minutes, only for Bearne to score again on half time to make it 4-1 to the Reds.

Liverpool started the second half strong with Luis Longstaff making it five for his side just a few minutes after the restart. But then, the controversy started.

Both teams saw a man sent off on 61 minutes with Clarkson being sent off for a horror challenge on Di’Shon Bernard, before United midfielder Shola Shoretire was sent packing for his actions following the challenge.

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United went on to score two more goals before the game ended, but Liverpool’s early onslaught laid the platform for an eventful 5-3 victory.

After their opening few games, the young Reds currently sit sixth in the Premier League 2 table with a game in hand. If they were to win that match they could jump as high as second.

At the end of the day, Lewtas will be looking to replicate what the first team did last season. It will be a tough task for a new-look side under new management, but if the team kicks on and continues to show the great form it has so far this season, there is no reason they can’t better last year’s showing and even go on to win the division like the senior team did last season.


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