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Liverpool Res 3 Villa Res 0 - Reserve League National Playoff (May 7 2008)

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Report by Dave Usher at Anfield



Scorer(s) Krizstian Nemeth, Jordy Brouwer, Lucas

Half Time – 1-0

Venue – Anfield

Date - Wed 7 May 2008

Star Man – Mikel San Jose









Liverpool’s title winning reserve side added another trophy to their collection at Anfield last night, as they overcame Southern League winners Aston Villa 3-0 to be crowned national champions. Goals from Krizstian Nemeth, Jordy Brouwer and Lucas gave Gary Ablett’s side victory in front of a lively crowd in L4.


Despite being without several regulars through injury and international call ups, Ablett was still able to name a well balanced side, which is testament to the amount of talent in his squad. Lucas was the only member of the senior squad involved, and he was only drafted in when Jay Spearing failed to shake off an injury in time to take his regular spot in the middle of the park.


Villa drafted in a few seniors, most notably Marvellous Marlon Harewood, who scored for their first team on his last visit to Anfield. Shaun Maloney and Wayne Routledge were also named in an experienced attack. The Brummies took this game seriously, that much was evident when Martin O’Neill decided he would sit on the bench for the second half and completely undermine the reserve coach Kevin McDonald by taking over.


Surely O’Neill hasn’t taken Rafa’s bid for Barry personally? Maybe it was Paddy Berger’s comments that rattled him? Either way, it was unusual to see a first team manager getting so heavily involved in a reserve game.


Villa started well, and Harewood was seeing a fair bit of the ball. Liverpool were on the back foot in the opening minutes, but it didn’t take long for them to find their stride. El Zhar was back after an injury lay off, and he was very lively on the right flank. Ryan Flynn was equally dangerous on the other side, and it made for an entertaining spectacle, with both sides going for it.


Liverpool drew first blood after ten minutes, when El Zhar fed Brouwer in the box, and the much maligned Dutch frontman – enjoying a purple patch of late – picked out his strike partner Nemeth on the right edge of the box. There didn’t seem to be much immediate danger to the Villa goal, as Nemeth wasn’t in a great shooting position and the ball was on his weaker foot. It didn’t matter though, the young Hungarian just stroked the ball into the far corner with his left foot for the latest in a line of impressive strikes.


El Zhar then put two efforts from distance narrowly off target, and Liverpool were really playing some nice stuff. The Moroccan was at the heart of most good things, and Brouwer should have scored when he was teed up by El Zhar on 24 minutes. His shot went straight at keeper Stuart Taylor however. The chance originally came about after some great play down the left by Flynn, and that was a feature of Liverpool’s play in the first half, the two widemen stretched Villa and both had the beating of their fullbacks.


The only worry as far as I could see, was that keeper Peter Gulacsi was looking really iffy under any kind of high ball into the box. Other than that, Villa weren’t actually creating much and were being well handled by Liverpool’s young defence.


Then out of nothing, Ronald Huth almost gifted the visitors an equaliser. He totally miscued an attempted clearance straight to Harewood. He fed Maloney, who quickly shifted it on one to Herd who was completely unmarked with the goal at his mercy. He should have scored, but his shot struck the foot of the post to give the reds an almighty let off.


Minutes later, they went close again. Gulacsi flapped at a cross, and Lowry sent a shot goalwards that was superbly cleared off the line by the outstanding San Jose. Liverpool were living dangerously now though, but they survived until half time with their lead intact, largely thanks to excellent defending but also because of Villa’s slack finishing.


Villa started the second half the way they’d ended the first. They weren’t exactly battering down the door, but they were certainly knocking politely. The closest they came to an equaliser was twelve minutes after the restart when Salifou crashed a shot against the bar from 20 yards after Liverpool had not cleared a corner properly.



Liverpool had some chances of their own, Nemeth stinging the palms of Taylor with a fierce drive from 25 yards, and El Zhar continuing to pose problems running at the defence. There was one counter attack where El Zhar intercepted a pass and charged forward, it looked like a great opportunity to score as Villa didn’t have many covering defenders. However, Brouwer made a terrible run in front of El Zhar that not only made it impossible for the Moroccan to pick him out, it also brought a defender across to close down the space.


It was infuriating, but the young Dutchman made amends minutes later when Nemeth found him in the area, and he took a touch to set himself before finishing expertly into the bottom corner. He’s been in good goalscoring form of late, and his all round game has improved as a result of the added confidence he has gained from the goals.


He was withdrawn shortly after, as Ablett sent on Dani Pacheco for his first taste of Anfield action. The smart money says it won’t be his last, as the kid can really play. His cameo was exciting, with some lovely touches and great movement. He set up the third goal for Lucas with a lovely weighted through ball that the Brazilian toe poked into the corner.


It was no more than Lucas deserved, he performed well and showed a great attitude throughout. Let’s not forget that although he’s a similar age to the rest of the side, he’s very experienced. He was a first teamer in Brazil for a couple of years prior to coming here, and he’s been a regular in the senior set up this season, not to mention the small matter of being a fixture in the Brazil squad recently.


There was not even the slightest indication that he saw this game as being beneath him, and full credit to him for the application he showed. Another thing he deserves great credit for was something that happened after the game. After the official presentation of the trophy had been made, all the reserve squad players who weren’t involved came onto the pitch and there were some group photo’s taken with the trophy.


Lucas moved away and stayed out of the photo’s, obviously because he isn’t normally a part of the reserve squad and he didn’t think it was appropriate to share in their glory. That showed a lot of humility, as really he deserved to be on that photo even if he may not train with the squad every day. He stepped in for this game because he was needed, and he did a great job. I was very impressed with his humility, he’s like the anti-Josemi.


Pacheco should have made it 4-0 late on, but he couldn’t keep his shot down from close range after some brilliant work on the right wing by another substitute, Craig Lindfield. It was nice to see Craig involved as well, as it’s been a miserable few months for him.


He was sent on loan to Notts County, and scored within a few minutes of his debut. After a few weeks however cash strapped County sent him back here because they couldn’t afford his hotel bill! He then went to Chester, and they sent him back shortly after because they couldn’t afford his wages.


Since then, he’s been on the fringes as Ablett has kept faith with the players he’s had all season. Craig is a good player, far too good to not even be starting for the reserves, but at least he was on the pitch at the end when they claimed the trophy.


I really enjoyed this game, in part due to the atmosphere generated by the few thousand on the Kop. The first half was quiet, but after the break some of the youngsters on there decided they wanted to bounce. At first it was just a few, then more joined in dotted around different parts of the Kop, and then suddenly people started running up the back of the Kop to congregate and bounce to the Torres song.


I was sat in the Main Stand and had a great view of what was happening, and it was fucking boss. The stewards were trying to stop them from moving to the back, but there were too many of them. Hundreds of teenagers made their way up the steps, and the chant got louder and louder, it was fantastic.


Then the police moved in and dispersed them, which was unnecessary as they weren’t doing any harm and they generated a fair old atmosphere. The rest of the Kop then became pissed off with the police and stewards, and they cranked up the volume to the point where I reckon it was louder than some first team games this season.


It was good for the lads to play in front of a decent sized crowd at Anfield, some of them have done it before either in the first team or in the youth cup, but for people like San Jose, Plessis, Nemeth and Pacheco it was a taste of what will hopefully come in the future for them.


San Jose was my star man, his defending was superb and he’s so calm in possession. He makes the game look easy. He’s had an excellent season, as have most of his team-mates. Insua had a good game too against the pacey Routledge, and Darby was his usual reliable self. He never has a bad game does ‘Darbs’.


Nemeth caught the eye as well, he has that little swagger and bit of arrogance that marks him out as someone who really could go places. I’d like to see him involved against Spurs this weekend, as Rafa showed last weekend that Crouch is no longer in his plans and Voronin showed that he shouldn’t be either.


There’s no point in having Voronin on the bench this weekend, Nemeth deserves a call up, and hopefully one or two others will be involved too. It’s been a great season for this group of young players, and they still have the chance of another trophy when they face the mancs in the final of the Lancashire senior cup. If they can win that, they’ll turn a treble into a quadruple, and only a disappointing defeat to Marine in the Liverpool Senior Cup will have prevented them from winning every competition they’ve entered.


Gary Ablett is doing a fine job.



Team: Gulacsi; Darby, San Jose, Huth, Insua; El Zhar (Simon), Lucas, Plessis, Flynn; Brouwer (Pacheco), Nemeth (Lindfield):

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