U18s: Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool – Fletcher scores on stalemate return

by Tracey Germaine

Manchester United’s Under-18s were held to a 1-1 draw against Liverpool yesterday in a tense stalemate between the rival clubs ahead of next weekend’s senior clash.

United were buoyed by the return of top goalscorer Ashley Fletcher, who had a lengthy absence due to knee surgery. However, it was a slighter younger side who faced Liverpool as Matt Willock, Ben Barber, Devonte Redmond and Callum Evans were all out.

The absentees meant that there were starts for Axel Tuanzebe and Marcus Rashford, while Cameron Borthwick-Jackson moved out to left-back.

Fletcher looked a little rusty when he sliced his first chance from a Demetri Mitchell pass wide of the goal but he showed his natural poaching skills when he gave United the lead in the 8th minute. He linked up again with Mitchell and finished past Ryan Crump in the Liverpool goal. Even with his lengthy absence, that’s Fletcher’s 12th goal of the season.

Unfortunately, the lead only lasted five minutes. Interplay between Borthwick-Jackson and Goss on the left gave Liverpool the chance to fashion an opening and Daniel Trickett-Smith rammed the equaliser home.

United were dominating the opening stages and looked as though they had retaken the lead when Joe Riley went on a great run behind the Liverpool defence. He made space for his shot but the finish was off as the ball hit off the post. Rashford had a decent effort soon after but his shot went wide.

Later, Fletcher was unlucky to see a goal ruled out for offside when he tapped in a low Borthwick-Jackson cross. Josh Harrop, who partnered Sean Goss in central midfield due to Willock’s absence, was very lucky not be booked even with the leniency often found at youth levels when he went full-blooded into a challenge.

Liverpool finished the first half on top when they forced Joel Pereira to make a save.

The second half was a quieter affair, although Liverpool came close to scoring from a corner but Pereira and Tuanzebe did enough to ensure that it wasn’t a goal. Fletcher was subbed off after 70 minutes on his return and a draw was a fair result on the day.

Manchester United: J. Pereira, Tuanzebe (Williams 83′), McConnell, Ioannou, Borthwick-Jackson, Riley, Goss, Harrop, Mitchell, Rashford (Kehinde 78′), Fletcher (Thompson 70′). Unused substitutes: Henderson, Dearnley.

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