HOW time changes. The last competitive visit to the KC Stadium saw two sides counting down to the end of the season and a drab 0-0 return. It was the last game under Rafa, a 7th placed finish in the league and with all the off-field shenanigans we were entering into a very dark period in the clubs illustrious history.
Those leaving the ground that day could be forgiven for their gloomy thoughts and depressed outlook, just where were we heading?
Yet last night, travelling back down the M62 I was personally brimming with confidence and excited for the future of the club. A 3-0 win away from home in the quarter final of a competition will do that to you, but it wasn’t just the result – it was the performance that was so impressive. As a team Liverpool looked a class act with individuals shining brightly.
On paper, Liverpool were always going to be favourites what with playing at that higher youth level than their opponents tonight as well as boasting stars with international experience, U21/reserve experience and first team experience. Being favourites, however, is not always a desirable label, and for their part, Hull had lost only once this season in all competitions and from the outset had a clear gameplan to counter the Reds.
The first half of the match saw Hull happy to have Liverpool play in front of their two banks of four and once the ball had bypassed the Hull front two there was no press and no closing. The setup was to frustrate and counter, and up until half-time this worked to an extent as Liverpool were restricted to long range efforts.
Half-time brought about a different approach, and as Steve Cooper identified post match, Liverpool altered the rhythm of their attacking play and wanted to take a more varied offensive approach which paid dividends. Both Ibe and Dunn saw more of the ball and caused a constant headache, but Hull stood strong, retained their discipline and organisation and were tough to break down.
A goal was needed to shake things up and it duly arrived in fortuitous circumstances as a short free-kick found its way to an unmarked Lloyd Jones at the top of the six yard box and whilst the defence appealed for offside, Jones calmly slotted the ball home. This opened the game up as Hull had to change their approach and try and take the game to Liverpool, something that despite a number of changes they never really did. They lacked the qualities Liverpool exuded in retaining possession and building pressure.
With the game more open both Dunn and Ibe grew into the game more and it was a wonderful long pass from Jones that saw Dunn cut in from the right, taking the fullback out of the game and finishing delightfully into the far corner; a cushion well deserved. The third and final goal resulted from a glorious through ball from Rossiter that the Hull keeper sliced against Dunn who saw the ball fall kindly so he could roll it into the gaping net.
The Histon game brought an uncertain pitch and intimidating atmosphere, the Leeds match brought the bright lights of Anfield and tonight the lads could have easily forgotten their game plan and resorted to more desperate tactics playing straight into Hull’s hands. This was something Frank McParland also identified and he was keen to stress the age of the side and the fact they put in such a professional and mature performance at their age was the ultimate compliment, let’s not forget the vast majority of this side will still be eligible for this tournament next season.
In terms of individual performances, Lloyd Jones shone very bright (and is a proper old school centre-back – freezing cold night and he wore short sleeves!) He was the commanding centre-half that won headers, mopped up and dominated the opposing centre-forwards. He was calm and collected when in possession of the ball and showed the ability to play accurate long balls and the vision to play the right balls, his assist for Dunn the perfect example.
As for Jack Dunn, he was lively all night and a real thorn in the side of Hull, taking both his goals exceptionally well, particularly his first. Jordan Lussey put in a sublime captain’s performance, breaking up play, retaining possession and recycling the ball. He was constantly an option in the centre of the park and read the game expertly to bring protection to the back four.
Jordan Rossiter is a freak, let’s get that out there! This kid is 15 years old and with Lussey he dominated that midfield. He was everywhere, he can pass he can tackle, he knows where and when to move, he constantly wants the ball and his vision and execution in the third goal was beyond his years. Robbie Fowler has lauded him in recent weeks and it is easy to see why.
Jordan Ibe was a constant outlet and a constant threat; he has that ability to beat players at will and looks so strong in possession. I have highlighted these guys as I believe they stood out tonight in what was a very good performance, and in a time where youth is invested in and given an opportunity, we have players at this age with unbelievable talent.
The future IS bright, the future is RED!
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