VIDEO: Liverpool lads fire Lions to victory
Thursday, 02 September, 2010
Reds duo score as U19s impress in their first win of the season.
Nicholas Veevers at Gresty Road
Click here to watch highlights of the game.
Noel Blake’s Young Lions made a winning start to the new season, putting on an impressive and slick display against Slovakia on Thursday night to secure a comfortable victory in Crewe.
The Head Coach had spoken in the build-up about wanting to examine all of his options ahead of October’s European Championship qualifiers in Belgium and he certainly got the chance, with all 18 players selected getting an opportunity to impress.
And despite nine members of the squad still being young enough to qualify for an U18 team, they took to the field with confidence and always looked one step ahead of their opponents from the very start, both sharp and lively in attack whilst calm and composed elsewhere.
It was a high tempo start to the game too, with captain Jonjo Shelvey and midfield sidekick Josh McEachran linking well from the off and there was a sign of things to come in the 14th minute, when goalkeeper Patrik Le Giang misjudged McEachran’s delivery from the left but did just enough to divert the ball away from the crowd of England attackers which had assembled in the area.
England didn’t have to wait much longer though, as they were gifted the lead in the 16th minute. The chance came when Slovakian midfielder Patrik Jacko sloppily gave the ball away and all of a sudden England had a three man attack bearing down on goal in the shape of Shelvey, Ross Barkley and Michael Ngoo. Barkley slipped a sideways pass to Ngoo, and the Liverpool ace made no mistake to expertly finish and open the scoring.
It could’ve been 2-0 after 21 minutes, when a flowing England move saw Ezekiel Fryers break forward and trade passes with Shelvey into the area, only to drive a low left-footer narrowly wide of the far post.
Slovakia really weren’t getting much of a look in at all and England came close again shortly after the half-hour mark when Barkley broke clear on the right. He cut a pass back for Ngoo, who in turn found Shelvey, only for his left-footed effort to be hacked behind for a corner by Zoltan Cibula.
The half could have ended with a goal too, as Ngoo made a meandering run across the face of the area only to see his eventual shot fly narrowly over the bar.
After controlling the first half, England initially found their opponents a little bit more troublesome after the break but they almost had a second goal in the 56th minute. The move was started by Shelvey, who picked out McEachran with a fine, raking pass over the top. Whilst the Chelsea man made his way into the box from the right, Shelvey had also caught up with play and when McEachran pulled the ball back to him, he looked favourite to score from eight yards but slipped just as he struck and his effort was blocked.
Blake opted to change things around on the hour mark, introducing Will Keane, Benik Afobe and Louis Laing to the action having already brought Nico Yennaris into midfield and swapped Jack Butland for Sam Johnstone in goal at half-time.
England were still in control too, and Shelvey almost brought the house down when he attempted a long range lob from inside the centre circle after spotting Le Giang off his line. Unfortunately, it just dropped wide of the target.
Shelvey finally got the goal his performance deserved though. Substitute Shaun Jeffers was tripped 25 yards from goal and when Shelvey stepped up to take the free-kick, he gave Le Giang no chance by curling the ball into the near corner.
The Lions almost added a third in the dying moments too, when another of the substitutes Luke Williams cracked the angle with a shot after cutting in from the left before Afobe slipped a shot wide in stoppage time.
That would have been the icing on the cake, and whilst it’s always nice to win, Blake always talks about performances and he will no doubt be delighted with the manner of his side’s display on this occasion.
Highlights of the game will be on TheFA.com on Friday.