While Liverpool’s senior squad spent Saturday recovering from Friday’s gritty victory at Southampton, Neil Critchley’s U23 squad took on Chelsea at the Kirkby Academy. The young guns demonstrated that Klopp’s side doesn’t have a monopoly on mental strength, and came from two goals behind to notch a 3-2 victory.
Liverpool surrendered the early advantage to Chelsea, conceding after just three minutes from Conor Gallagher and looking on the back foot. Gallagher doubled his tally on the 28 minute mark, and the U23 side looked to be in serious trouble but Curtis Jones drew a penalty just before halftime, which Ben Woodburn - remember him? - converted to thin Chelsea’s advantage.
Early in the second half, Woodburn was involved again, this time playing the role of creator and notching an assist by teeing up Abdi Sharif for the equalizer. That left Jones once again to provide the exclamation mark on the comeback victory. With just minutes left in regulation time, Jones produced an eye-catching individual effort to beat Chelsea keeper Karlo Ziger and complete the turnaround.
Following the match and speaking to the club’s website, Critchley was full of praise for Jones.
“I think his last two performances - at Derby away and here - he’s shown really what he’s about as a player,” noted the manager. “He won the penalty with a lovely one-two and running forward with a good piece of skill.”
“He was in front of me and there was a bit of a break in play and I said to Curtis, ‘Come on, I think you’re going to win us this game’. I just had a feeling - you could just tell he was in that mood. He twisted and turned and it was a rocket of a shot, beat the goalkeeper and it was a goal worthy of winning that type of game.”
And as it relates to Woodburn, who not so long ago looked to be the Next Big Thing to emerge from Liverpool’s youth ranks, Critchley was also full of optimism.
“I think Ben is getting better every game he plays - he looks fitter, sharper,” noted Critchley. “Ben’s got undoubted quality. It’s just about getting him on the pitch and getting him games, which he’s getting at the moment. He’ll benefit from that.”