The Young Reds are alright – Liverpool’s youth steals the show as they advance to the Carabao Cup fourth round.
Goals from James Milner and Ki-Jana Hoever either side of half time gave Liverpool what was in the end a hard fought 2-0 win, seeing them through to the next round.
In a Liverpool side boasting the likes of Naby Keita, Dejan Lovren and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain it was the young guns Hoever, Harvey Elliot and Curtis Jones who stole the show at Stadium MK.
A somewhat wasteful Liverpool controlled the game for the most part, they kept hold of the ball well and forced MK Dons to work very hard to keep them out in the early exchanges.
Despite this, the often divisive Dejan Lovren could have gifted MK Dons a shock lead early on.
The Croat was handily out muscled and forced off the ball by Dons’ top score Sam Nombe who set up midfielder Conor McGrandles for a chance he won’t want to see back, despite a near open goal though the MK Dons number 18 couldn’t convert.
Liverpool’s young wingers Harvey Elliot and Curtis Jones were running MK Dons’ defence ragged in the opening stages of the game. The duo were creating chances for teammates and for themselves seemingly at will through great footwork and showing confidence beyond their years.
It was Elliot who had the pick of the early chances for the Reds though, when Milner played an excellent ball across the box for the 16 year old debutant at the back post who rattled the crossbar when he probably should have opened the scoring.
Not long after and roles were reversed when Liverpool’s youngest ever starter Elliot beat a couple of players on the wing and played a delightful chip in behind the defence for James Milner, who couldn’t manage to direct his header on target.
MK Dons managed to keep the scoreline level for just over 40 minutes before Liverpool got the opener in bizarre fashion.
Milner collected the ball on the left, cut inside and fizzed a shot straight down the throat of the keeper from the edge of the box, Stuart Moore couldn’t manage to keep hold of it though and despite his best attempts to claw it out the ball did go in.
Tonight’s goal marks the first James Milner has scored in the competition since the 2010 final for Aston Villa against Manchester United.
The second half started in much the same fashion as the first, Liverpool dominated possession and kept hold of the ball patiently working it around.
Elliot went very close again early in the half, MK Dons struggled to clear their lines and it fell fortuitously to the 16 year old inside the box, he took the ball in his stride expertly, but could only hit the side netting.
This Elliot chance seemed to wake up the home side who pushed harder as the half went on to get the all important second goal of the game.
Sam Nombe provided a clear warning to the Reds back line when he beat the offside trap to go one on one, however, the striker momentarily thought he was offside and the hesitation allowed Dejan Lovren to get back and make the all important tackle.
Not long after and MK Dons had a much more clear cut chance, a swinging cross in from Alex Gilbey was met by substitute Russel Martin who’s glancing headed landed to Jordan Bowery who couldn’t get hold of his shot, and only managed to poke it onto the foot of Caoimhin Kellehers post.
Despite MK Dons’ best efforts it was Liverpool who got the next goal in the 69th minute, all but confirming their place in the next round.
After patient passing on the edge of the box Adam Lallana played in Milner on the left hand side, the 33-year-old played a great ball towards the back post, and the young Dutchman Ki-Jana Hoever rose highest to nod in the first senior goal of his fledgling career.
It was a goal his compatriot Virgil Van Dijk would have been proud of, a moment the 17 year old will likely never forget.
In shades of goals past Pedro Chirivella lay a ball into the feet of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 25 yards out and the Englishman hit it hard and low, but thanks to a slight tough from the keeper it struck the upright frustrating the England international.
Not quite the same as his wonder goal against Man City from a few seasons back but very close indeed.
Paul Tisdale’s side began to really push to get a goal back towards the end of the game in the hopes of setting up a nail biting conclusion and they came agonisingly close on multiple occasions.
Dons’ brought on Hiram Boateng and he was the lynch pin for everything his side was doing going forward.
He did wonderfully to break free of the Liverpool chasing pack down the right hand side and put across a pin point pass, Bowery had to find the back of the net but the Englishman could only strike the ball right at Kelleher from point blank range.
Boateng proved the architect again a few minutes later. The Crystal Palace academy graduate hung a cross towards the back post, Joe Walsh kept the ball alive heading it back in, Kelleher could only punch it but the ball fell right to George Williams inside the box with the whole goal to aim at, but Lovren was fortunately back to clear it off the line.
Liverpool’s young stars could have put the icing on the cake in injury time, with Harvey Elliot denied a debut goal by the woodwork for the second time in the game.
Showing great confidence, he flashed past his defender and took the shot on early with his weak foot, but the ball cannoned off the crossbar leaving the new signing from Fulham smacking the ground in frustration. Oh what could have been.
Following tonight’s victory, Liverpool were handed a tough draw in the Carabao Cup Fourth Round, with a home tie against familiar foes Arsenal on the near horizon.