Liverpool 2 Leeds 0: Ben Woodburn had a grin as big as the Mersey as he left the pitch, the youngest goalscorer in Liverpool’s long and illustrious history.
This was a night when Liverpool produced a largely forgettable performance to secure their place in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup against a determined Leeds United.
But for Woodburn it will never be permanently etched into his mind as the Welsh teenager scored the first goal of his fledging Liverpool career. Remember the name.
Last Saturday against Sunderland he became Liverpool’s third youngest debutant of all-time at the age.
And a few days later, after being introduced as a 67th-minute substitute on a bitterly cold night at Anfield he wrote his name into the Liverpool history books at 17 years and 45 days.
“We all know how young he is, but it doesn’t look like this in training sessions,” said Jurgen Klopp last night. “It’s a nice story and all the boys are happy for him. Everybody is smiling in the dressing room.
“Leeds is a very strong side. We weren’t the most creative tonight. We could’ve done better, and we did in the second half. We created more, so it’s a deserved win.”
Woodburn has been compared to both Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen after some stirring performances in Liverpool’s youth ranks.
And the academy product took Owen’s youngest scoring record off him with the kind of finish that had more than a hint of Fowler about it clinically dispatching the ball at the back post.
These two sides last met at Anfield over 13 years ago in October 2003. This match on paper may have lacked the iconic status of the great encounters between two giants of English football in their heyday. It was not the 1970s Leeds United of Bremner, Giles, and Lorimer which lined up in those white shirts against the likes of Keegan, Callaghan and Hughes. The names may have changed, but the vociferous Leeds fans that occupied the lower Anfield Road End were no less partisan than their glory days.
It was as if the sleeping giant was awoken. And it had the desired effect on the Leeds players on the pitch as Garry Monk’s players scrapped and fought for every ball. The Kop remained on its feet, throughout, sensing they too would be required to play their role. It was simply waiting for a moment like Woodburn’s.
Klopp had made eight changes from the side which beat Sunderland 2-0 with only Georginio Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane and Emre Can retained, and while Liverpool were disciplined and organised, they lacked inventiveness and penetration in the final third until late in the game despite monopolising possession.
Kemar Roofe went close for Leeds early on with a low shot which forced Simon Mignolet to make a smart diving save in the Liverpool goal.
Moments later Marco Silvestri tipped over Wijnaldum’s improvised effort after he got on the end of Ovie Ejaria’s intelligent pass.
Can almost capitalised on a defensive mix-up after Kalvin Phillips’ pass was left by Kyle Bartley, only for the ball to dribble past the post.
In truth, though, the first half on the pitch was not one for the purist on a bitter evening; it was a night for knuckling down and grafting rather than flashy showmanship.
The home fans felt the same — the Kop berating Divock Origi for too many touches in the area as he struggled to get a shot off after half-time.
Liverpool had a lucky escape when Kevin Stewart had his pocket picked as the Reds tried to pass their way out of trouble at the back, and Roofe’s curling effort came back out from the inside of the post, with Mignolet beaten.
Monk threw on top scorer Chris Wood just after the hour and it lifted the visitors; defender Kyle Bartley flashed a header wide from a corner, while Roofe’s low attempt at the near post was saved by Mignolet.
Wijnaldum hit the post with 20 minutes left before Liverpool struck a decisive blow.
Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold teased a cross into the penalty area and Origi’s stretched out a leg to slide the ball home.
But it was Woodburn’s goal the Kop celebrated with most gusto, though, as the youngster showed his composure after Wijnaldum flicked the ball into Woodburn. The teen wheeled away in celebration. A night he will never forget.
Mignolet 7; Alexander-Arnold 7, Klavan 6, Lucas 8, Moreno 5; Stewart 5 (Woodburn 67; 8), Can 7; Ejaria 6; Wijnaldum 7, Mane 7; Origi 6 (Grujic 90+1; 6).
Karius, Lovren, Clyne, Henderson, Milner,.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1):
Silvestri 6; Berardi 5, Cooper 6 (Ayling, 45; 6), Bartley 7, Taylor 6; Vieira 7, O’Kane 6 (Phillips 28; 6); Sacko 8, Roofe 8, Dallas 6 (Wood 62; 6); Doukara 6
Green, Grimes, Mowatt, Antonsson
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