Liverpool Starting XI
McLaughlin, Sama, Widsom, Smith
Silva, Suso, Sterling
Adorjan for Silva 62'
Morgan for Suso 82'
McGiveron for Sama 88'
Against Sporting Lisbon it took Liverpool most of a half to find their feet, and combined with some poor finishing it added up to a heavy loss and a disappointing start to their NextGen Series campaign. If their second match against Molde was far from perfect, then, Liverpool at least showed an ability to hit the ground running at the second time of asking, dominating play for much of the first half against a side that while a step down from Sporting was nonetheless playing at home while many of Liverpool's youngsters were facing their first real test on the continent.
As important as the squad seeming more comfortable from the start the second time around was leaving behind fringe first team players Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Robinson. Either because they no longer train as often with the young reserves or because they were less motivated to compete at the u19 level having gotten a taste of first team action, neither had looked especially effective against Sporting, and the introduction of Craig Roddan in the middle and U17 World Cup standout Brad Smith at left back replaced two of Liverpool's worst performers with a pair who would turn in two of the strongest showings against Molde. They were hardly alone, though, with Andre Wisdom moving inside to his more natural centre back position and dominating proceedings at the back while Conor Coady captained the side with a composed display alongside the more adventurous Roddan in midfield. Meanwhile up front the older Michael Ngoo, who started on the bench against Sporting Lisbon as he was just returning from the U20 World Cup, was much stronger than Adam Morgan had been the last time out.
The standout performance on the day, however, belonged to Raheem Sterling, as the Norwegians had no answer for the buzzing left winger. One on one situations with Molde's right back saw the Liverpool youngster skip past and into space repeatedly, while when they put two or three on him he would simply cut it back and chip balls into the box, and he would bookend Liverpool's day by setting up Toni Silva's opener before slotting home the fourth on a cutback from the marauding Brad Smith.
When it came to Toni Silva, he once again impressed and frustrated in equal measure, a theme that has been nearly constant since he joined Liverpool over a year ago. His header for the first goal was textbook perfect, driven with pace into the ground at the goalkeeper's feet and bouncing into the back of the net—unstoppable. But then he took off from his teammates and celebrated with a series of cartwheels, perhaps a celebration fitting such a quality finish but one that nonetheless couldn't help but remind everybody watching that since his arrival he's been a player who appears to put personal achievement ahead of team achievement. As the match progressed, too, it would be more of the usual mix of stunning bits of skill interspersed with frustrating bouts of selfishness, culminating in a sweetly taken second goal followed by an ugly tantrum when he wasn't allowed to take Liverpool's penalty.
Ngoo, who had a strong game from start to finish, tore past the Molde defense in the 56th minute and tried to chip the charging keeper. He missed, but was taken out in the process, earning a penalty. At first, Ngoo stepped up to take the penalty he had earned, but with instructions coming from the bech for Conor Coady to take it instead the big striker stepped aside gracefully. Which seemed as though it should have been the end of any discussion until Toni Silva bulled in and tried to grab the ball from Coady before stomping back to the half way line when it became clear he wasn't going to be given the opportunity to convert the penalty into a hat trick.
Almost immediately, reserves manager Rodolfo Borrell took off the petulant Silva for Hungarian playmaker Kristztian Adorjan, and it's hard not to think that Silva's antics at least played a role in his substitution. Certainly the young Portuguese is a talent, but with each passing game it becomes more difficult to think of it being only a matter of time before his attitude improves and instead a question of if it ever will.
As for the remainder of the match, after the penalty it was never in doubt, with Liverpool taking their foot off the gas but maintaining a stranglehold on possession with Molde seeming consigned to the heavy defeat. And so now Liverpool looks ahead to a match at Anfield against Wolfsburg next Wednesday, and after an at times shaky start against Sporting Lisbon they will have to be feeling confident in their chances after so handily dispatching a Molde side that had previously defeated Wolfsburg and played Sporting close. If they can similarly handle the Germans next week, a top two finish in the group and a chance to move on to the knock out rounds in January will be well within their grasp.