Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers’ Europa League gamble almost paid off as the club’s young guns were held to a 1-1 draw in Bordeaux. Adam Lallana’s brilliant-but-simple goal midway through the second half was the highlight of a dogged display as the England midfielder capped his first appearance in a month, but the goal was cancelled out by substitute Jussie nine minutes from time.
However, it was the performance of the club’s next generation which caught the eye. Rodgers made eight changes from the defeat against Manchester United at the weekend — leaving six regulars at home — and after less than half an hour there was another alteration, with Kolo Toure forced off with a leg injury inflicted by his own goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet.
On the positive side, the substiution presented a debut to academy graduate Pedro Chirivella and brought the average age of the side down to 21.7, with 18-year-olds Joe Gomez, Jordan Rossiter and Chirivella alongside Jordon Ibe (19) and Divock Origi (20). Another academy star Cameron Brannagan was handed his debut with 10 minutes to go, replacing Rossiter, who visibly grew into his central midfield role.
But it was asking a lot for a team of such inexperience to produce a dominating performance, and great responsibility lay on the shoulders of Philippe Coutinho and the fit-again Lallana. Coutinho dropped deep, but whenever he got the ball and turned, there was very little to aim for, with Origi appearing as a solitary figure up front as the absent Christian Benteke had at Old Trafford last weekend.
The Brazil playmaker persevered, drilling one shot from distance against the post late in the first half, but Lallana — still rusty after a month’s lay-off — wanted one too many touches, and even when Ibe picked him out in space outside the penalty area, he delayed long enough to be dispossessed before he could break into the box.
Bordeaux, mid-table in Ligue 1 with just one victory, had all the best chances in the first half, with Diego Rolan twice shooting over – once lobbing Mignolet but landing the ball on top of the net. Wahbi Khazri also flicked an effort shot wide and Henri Saivet lifted a free-kick straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Liverpool had a greater degree of control in the second half as Rossiter and Chirivella, long-time youth team colleagues, got into their stride and took center stage. Coutinho combined with Lallana for their first shot on target, but they were exceptionally grateful for Crivelli bundling wide of an open goal when Gomez’s header dropped to Nicolas Maurice-Belay in the six-yard box.
It was a pivotal moment, as Lallana’s deft touch nutmegged Pablo and teed up a first-time finish inside the far post.
Substitute Danny Ings almost made it 2-0 with a carbon copy effort only to be denied by the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso, and Jussie’s late equalizer was the sucker punch.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
Brilliant from Lallana that.
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) September 17, 2015
Simon Mignolet: 6
Joe Gomez: 6
Kolo Toure: 5
Mamadou Sakho: 6
Alberto Moreno: 5
Jordan Rossiter: 7
Emre Can: 6
Jordan Ibe: 5
Philippe Coutinho: 6
Adam Lallana: 6
Divock Origi: 4
Pedro Chirivella: 7
Danny Ings: 6
Cameron Brannagan: 6
Jordan Rossiter: Displayed an experience beyond his 18 years in central midfield and got better as the game wore on. Big night for the improving youngster.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Adam Lallana’s nutmeg on Pablo and first-time finish deserved to be the match-winner. The England international was making his first appearance since August due to injury and gave a reminder to Rodgers and the Liverpool fans of his talents.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Rodgers will argue his selection gamble paid off as his kids did the job he asked them to do. A point away from home in Europe is never bad.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Liverpool’s inability to either a) score more goals and b) close out the game when holding a narrow lead cost them a fine European away win.
WHO’S UP NEXT
Liverpool vs. Norwich (Premier League, Sunday, Sept. 20).
Goalscorer Lallana believes Liverpool could take positives from the performance of the youngsters and praised defender Sakho for his display in defense.
He told BT Sport 1:
“(We were) disappointed at the end but it’s a positive performance. They scored with five or 10 minutes to go but before the game possibly we’d have taken a point.
“We had a couple of young lads that played tonight, Pedro came on early doors. I thought him and Jordan were brilliant and showed great maturity for their age.
“Sakho’s a top, top player and a top professional as well. He showed what he was made of tonight – great professionalism, great on the ball, he defended well. Bar the goal at the end we defended really solidly.
“It’s a disappointment to have conceded that but it’s a point away from home. We need to win our next game at home in this competition and things will look a lot better.”
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