Steven Gerrard was left red-faced after a squad of first-team fringe players fell behind 4-0 in the first half of a closed-door friendly against the Liverpool U-23 side.
While Rangers came back in the second half to secure a 4-4 draw, Gerrard will use the opening 45 minutes to weed out some players who are struggling. “First half was an embarrassment and the second half was fantastic,” Gerrard said of the match. “It was a very useful exercise for different reasons but in terms of us as staff, we learnt so much about the players individually.”
The former Liverpool star said that he was frustrated by the players he felt needed game time, but praised four young teenagers who came on for the second half and turned the game around. While officially the players were unnamed, reports on social media say Dapo Mebude, Kai Kennedy, Josh McPake, and Glenn Middleton – all 17 or 18 years old – came on for the second half and made an impact, with Mebude scoring a brace plus goals from McPake and Middleton to lead the comeback.
When asked about the purpose for holding the match, Gerrard explained that fitness was a key component, but admitted that some first-team players were participants in the first-half drubbing. “Well I think it’s a few different reasons really,” Gerrard said to the club’s official video channel. “The first was to give people game-time who haven’t played as much. We want to try and keep them as sharp and as fit as possible for the run-in. And the other reason was to have a look at some young talent that had been doing really well in the Reserves or the 18s and give them an opportunity to be around the first-team lads and see how they can cope playing against good players at Ibrox.”
Gerrard said that he learned a lot from the match, which could be ominous for the players who were on the field in the first 45 minutes. “It was a very useful game. I probably learned more in that 90 minutes about the players than I have done all season because it was a game of two halves.”
Rangers sit second in the Scottish Premiership table, nine points behind rivals Celtic with four matches to go. Liverpool’s U-23 side has the chance to finish as high as second in the Premier League 2 table with one match remaining, behind Everton who was already confirmed as champions.
The New York Red Bulls have rejected an offer from West Ham for defender Aaron Long, according to Sky Sports.
The Hammers’ offer for the 27-year-old former MLS Defender of the Year was $500,000 for a season-long loan with a $4.5 million option to buy in the summer.
Last summer, Long, who has a $4 million release clause was on the verge of joining the London-based side, but was unable to secure a work permit.
“As our biggest ally, it seems strange that a football player from the US can’t automatically get a work visa to play in England,” the defender said last summer, amid a move to England. “Every kid in the USA dreams of playing in the English Premier League. Not many players get the chance, so of course I would like to play there someday.”
West Ham, who haven’t won in three Premier League matches, stand 17th on the table with 23 points.
Neymar dedicated his second goal to Kobe Bryant, who, along with eight others, tragically passed away on Sunday.
The Brazilian star approached a sideline camera after his second goal of the night, gesturing the numbers two and four with his fingers, a number worn by Bryant during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Following the game, Neymar paid additional respect to Bryant via Twitter.
It reads in English: “Sad day for us in sports, for us fans and especially for Kobe’s family and friends. A legend has been made with your hands, thank you for extolling the Kobe sport … may God comfort the hearts of your family and friends”
Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and six others, died in the helicopter accident on Sunday morning in Southern California.
A basketball legend and soccer fan, others within the sport paid tribute to Bryant:
In proper FA Cup fashion, League One side Shrewsbury Town pulled off a late draw against Liverpool, forcing a replay at Anfield.
[ RECAP: Shrewsbury forces FA Cup replay with Liverpool ]
The replay, which is set to take place during the Premier League’s winter break, is going to be a problem for Liverpool, according to manager Jurgen Klopp. First-team players have been granted the time off, forcing Klopp and company to play the “kids” for the upcoming replay of the fourth-round bout.
“We intend to honor the original idea of the break,” the Liverpool manager said on Sunday. “We have respect for the players’ welfare and they need this time off.”
“We got a letter from the authorities in April last year asking us not to organize anything during the week of the break and we haven’t,” he added. “We have given the players the time off, and some are going away. They will still be keeping fit, but they do not have to play football that week and they do not have to come in to Melwood.”
Jason Cummings’ right-footed strike in the 75th minute nulled Liverpool’s two-goal advantage early in the second half. The German also admitted that there was no reason for a replay on Tuesday 4 February or Wednesday 5 February.
“We lost the ball in the wrong moments and we never got used to the pitch,” he said. “We conceded the penalty after losing the ball and when they scored their second goal it was after we had lost two challenges in a row. We didn’t play well enough to take anything from the game, we got what we deserved. I would like to give Shrewsbury credit for their performance and the atmosphere their supporters produced. I enjoyed the atmosphere around the cup tie, I just didn’t enjoy the way we played.”
Liverpool may be crushing the Premier League, but League One side Shrewsbury Town wasn’t phased facing the juggernaut at its home ground New Meadow, not even after falling 2-0 down on a horrid own-goal. Instead, the hosts came back to draw 2-2 and force an FA Cup fourth round replay at Anfield.
Liverpool started a youthful lineup that featured youngsters Curtis Jones, Neco Williams, Pedro Chirivella, and Harvey Elliott mixed in with Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi, and Dejan Lovren. The opener came in the 15th minute via 18-year-old Jones who slurped up a fabulous through ball from Chirivella and slotted it home from a tight angle past a charging Shrewsbury goalkeeper Max O’Leary.
[ EARLIER: Man City torches Fulham | Man United hammers Tranmere ]
The second came just seconds after the second-half restart on a comical own-goal as former Manchester United defender Donald Love poked a Williams cross into his own net under absolutely no pressure. It was a brainless decision as it appeared Love meant to poke the ball behind for a corner, but with nobody nearby, he somehow finished into the lower left corner instead.
After Liverpool doubled its lead at 2-0, Shrewsbury came to life and began to challenge the young Liverpool lineup. Callum Lang found himself through on goal with a great chance to bring the hosts back into the match, but his one-on-one change was saved by the fingertips of a diving Adrian. Shrewsbury did eventually cut the lead in half after Yasser Larouci cut down Josh Laurent in the penalty area and substitute Jason Cummings slotted home the chance from the spot.
The Shrews were a tough out with confidence back high after the goal, O’Leary made a fantastic diving save to stop Divock Origi. He booted down the field and and they drew level in the 75th minute as Cummings grabbed his second as he brought down a long ball and split the Liverpool defensive duo Williams and Lovren. Once past the Liverpool defenders he slotted home cooly past Adrian to equalize.
Jones nearly won it for Liverpool late as the ball squirted across the line in a goalmouth scramble, but his sliding effort was blocked off the line by a Scott Goldbourne tackle.