Liverpool U23s 3-0 Sunderland U23s
Patience was a Virtue at Prenton Park but it was Liverpool who held their nerve as Sunderland fell to a 3-0 defeat.
Both sides could have been awarded penalties in a frantic opening period, but it remained deadlocked at the interval as the Black Cats’ robust backline frustrated the Reds.
Liverpool made two changes at the break and one of them, Rhian Brewster, should have opened the scoring on the hour mark, but Max Steyjek produced a moment of pure class with a one-handed save denying the 17-year-old.
Two big chances fell by the wayside as the Black Cats pushed forward in the latter stages and Liverpool made them pay, with Matty Virtue pouncing to finish from close range before Brewster added a second in the 82nd minute.
And Virtue completing the scoring late on with the Reds’ third goal in ten minutes.
Both sides entered the game unbeaten after wins on the opening day. The Black Cats came from behind to defeat Tottenham Hotspur as Denver Hume struck a last-gasp winner, while Liverpool overcame Swansea as Danny Ings led the way on his return from injury.
The England international once again led the line as the Reds also included fellow first-teamer Marko Grujic against a youthful Sunderland side.
Elliot Dickman’s side made a bright start to the encounter and industrious play from Andrew Nelson set the tone, with the hard-working striker winning a free-kick which was cleared by Ben Woodburn.
Ryan Kent, who scored a late winner at Eppleton CW in a previous meeting between the sides, earned the Reds’ first sight at goal, but after weaving past the Sunderland midfield his wayward effort sailed wide.
The flanks continued to provide a source of optimism for Liverpool, with Woodburn and Kent slipping in behind the Black Cats backline at every opportunity.
But Dickman’s side defended manfully and they had chances of their own, however, Nelson and Luke Molyneux were both unable to find a finish after good build-up play.
Elliot Embleton was also involved in the opening period, with the England under-20 international fizzing a cross into the danger area where ‘keeper Kamil Grabara palmed the ball to safety.
As the opening period wore on the hosts edged proceedings and created a handful of chances, with Ings firing wide before Kent stole in and was sent tumbling by Tom Beadling.
However, the referee waved play on and it remained goalless at the break.
Neil Critchley made two changes at the interval as Grujic and Kent were replaced by Matty Virtue and Brewster.
Sunderland mustered the first attempt of the second period, though, as Nelson and Embleton combined before Grabara was caught out of position, but Molyneux was denied by a timely block.
Virtue then forced Stryjek into a comfortable save following good link-up play from Ings and Ovie Ejaria, but the Polish stopper’s afternoon was far from over.
Seconds after Ings failed to connect from close range, Styjek produced a sensational save to deny Brewster from 10 yards after a brilliant pull-back into the danger zone.
As the game ticked into the final 20 minutes Sunderland missed two big chances of their own, with substitute Allan failing to strike cleanly at the back post before Embleton curled an effort wide.
And with 12 minutes remaining they paid the price.
A beautifully-weighted cross to the back post from Yan Dhanda was powered against the crossbar by Corey Whelan, but Virtue was on hand to bury the rebound and hand Liverpool a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later it was game over, as Brewster raced onto a stunning Hollywood ball from Ejaria before rattling the ball beyond Stryjek.
And the goalscoring duo combined before the full-time whistle to devastating effect, as Brewster’s clever ball was slammed home by Virtue.
Liverpool U23s: Grabara, Whelan, Hart, Phillips, Jones, Williams, Kent (Brewster 46), Grujic (Virtue 46), Ejaria, Woodburn, Ings (Dhanda 70).
Subs not used: Firth, Johnston.
Sunderland U23s: Stryjek, J Robson, Beadling, Ledger, Hume, Bale, E Robson, Embleton, Molyneux, Diamond (Allan 66), Nelson.
Subs not used: Taylor, Talbot, Gamble, Wright.