Liverpool reserves welcomed back Milan Baros from long term injury and gave run outs to the whole unused bench from the Derby game against Newcastle at the Liverpool academy. The game lacked any great quality and finished with both teams sharing the points. On the balance of the game that was a fair reflection as well.
Anthony Le Tallec was amongst the fans watching the game sporting a decidedly strange tracksuit and white Panama hat. The tracksuit did get covered up early though as Reds manager Gerard Houllier sent hi back to get his coat on which was rather comical to watch.
Newcastle got the game underway after switching ends to ensure they played with the strong wind in the second half. A very cold night as always at the academy and it was the Reds who created the first chance from a corner after two minutes but Riise couldn't force his body around the ball quick enough as the ball fell invitingly. Riise showed a positive attitude at being dropped down a level for fitness reasons. The same couldn't be said really in the first half of Danny Murphy who looked like he wanted to be elsewhere.
Newcastle were getting Bowyer and Bellamy back to fitness in the game and it was the Welshman who went close to nipping in round the back on eleven minutes but Luzi was out fast to rescue the situation. Two minutes later and Bellamy reached a ball before Luzi could on the right edge of the area as he raced in but from a tight angle he could only fire across the goal and no Newcastle man followed in.
The weather was starting to play it's part in the game though as the Reds were struggling to get the ball down and control it properly. In fact it took another twenty five minutes for a real chance to come off when Danny Murphy shot from outside the box. His shot took a slight deflection and beta Caig in the Newcastle goal but he saw the ball smash back down off the underside of the bar and Riise made a complete hash of the follow up shot when the ball bounced higher than he expected. At the other end the Reds' defence was coping easily with anything Newcastle could throw at them. Djimi Traore however did look the weakest link from the four.
David Raven was alert on forty minutes to cut out a cross which had fizzed across the box and Ameobi was coming in for. Raven cleared the ball for a corner and the Reds cleared the lines easily from that. With just one extra minute of time added on in the first half the sides went in all square at half time.
Stephen Vaughan came on at half time for David Raven who suffered a slight groin strain in the first half. Raven had stepped up during the day as Jon Otsemobor had been loaned out to Bolton for the rest of the season. Liverpool got the game underway but nearly fell behind just a minute into the half as Ameobi had a header on target at the back post but Luzi fisted the ball clear.
Milan Baros got his first real sight of goal on fifty one minutes and he really should have scored. He received the ball in the middle of the area but sidefooted tamely and to close to the keeper who saved with ease. Baros was making some good runs but was starved of any real service which was a shame.
Shola Ameobi had a great chance on fifty three minutes to open the scoring but after getting in the right position between Medjani and Vaughan he dragged his shot wide of the target. Lee Bowyer who played the whole game with a stupid grin on his face was very lucky not to see at least a yellow card a minute later when he hacked John Welsh down without getting anywhere near the ball. After treatment Welsh carried on and Bowyer only received a few words from the referee.
Igor Biscan did receive a booking on sixty two minutes though when he clattered Bellamy. Given what had just gone ten minutes earlier it was rather harsh in comparison. Milan Baros came off on sixty four minutes to be replaced by Ste Gillespie and Baros went straight to the changing room and Houllier followed to see how his star had coped in terms of reaction. Five minutes later Pongolle went off to be replaced by Foy although this was a little more forced as Pongolle had gone down. Whether he just had cramp or had taken a knock wasn't altogether clear as he limped off to the changing rooms.
Newcastle caused confusion in the Reds box on seventy one minutes as Ameobi found his way to goal by Biscan and Medjani but the ball fell inviting a shot on goal in the middle of the area but quick reaction by Welsh averted the danger as he tried to clear not only the net behind the goal but the whole academy building with his clearance.
The Reds took the lead on seventy six minutes and it was a stunner when it came. Danny Murphy carried the ball across the pitch from right to left but as he reached the far corner of the are he stopped and checked back before bending a super shot into the top corner of the net. Murphy had shown a better attitude in he second half and the goal was deserved as such to him.
Newcastle took Michael Chopra on for the final eleven minutes as they went three up front in an attempt to rescue something from the game. Two minutes later Liverpool so nearly rounded off a great move with a goal. A superb pass and move game saw Potter and Welsh play a one two on the edge of the box but the shot on goal was blocked on Riise shot over with the follow up shot. Robbie Foy then had a shot from thirty five yards out although it never troubled Caig in the goal.
Time was running down and four minutes extra were added in which time the visiting side managed to score their equaliser. One minute into stoppage time Ameobi collected the ball on the edge of the box and after working some space for himself he shot at goal and Luzi made a mess of the save a bit in my opinion to allow the ball squirm in at the post. In the remainder of stoppage time both sides went close to scoring but neither managed to convert. Murphy had a good shot on target with two minutes left but Caig was behind it all the way and in the very final minute Bellamy shot wide of the goal.
Overall a draw was a fair reflection on a relatively poor game. The Reds will be glad to see Milan Baros get some real action under his belt and hopefully will see Pongolle suffer no reaction to his forced substitution. The game for me will be remembered for three things. Le Tallec and his fashion sense, Houllier getting in the way by interfering on the bench during the first half and the stunning strike by Murphy. Of course the windy conditions came as standard for the academy.
MotM : Igor Biscan - Igor had a really comfortable game and showed some assuredness at he back which helped Medjani as well who had one of his best games for the Reds since his arrival. Murphy played well in the second half and scored a super strike.