Ipswich Town 1-2 Liverpool: Young Blues should hold heads high despite FA Youth Cup exit
- Credit: Ross Halls
Ipswich Town put in a performance to be proud of before eventually falling to Liverpool in their FA Youth Cup semi-final.
The Blues had already defied the odds to reach this stage of the competition, knocking out Category One academy sides Fulham and Middlesbrough before edging the most dramatic of quarter-finals against Sheffield United, but they bravely fell just one game short of the final.
Adem Atay’s side looked to play on the front foot throughout the game and emerged for the second half just 45 minutes away from the final, after Edwin Agbaje had put them into a deserved lead at the interval.
But they were pegged back after the break as Mateusz Musialowski and then Melkamu Frauendorf struck for Liverpool after half-time, with the winner coming 10 minutes from time to break Ipswich hearts.
Town’s young players put in excellent displays in front of watching first-team manager Paul Cook and his staff, with goalkeeper Lewis Ridd making a string of saves to keep Liverpool out, Fraser Alexander pulling the strings from a deep midfield role and Cameron Humphreys looking to create from wide areas. Elkan Baggott showed his class at the back while full-backs Albie Armin and Agbaje were able to get forward on a number of occasions in what was a committed team performance.
But despite more than matching their visitors for long spells of this game, the young team’s cup dream ultimately came to an end in front of the BT Sport cameras as Liverpool's class eventually shone through.
Atay and his players can hold their heads high, though, following a season which could still end with silverware as they enter the Professional Development League play-offs this weekend.
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But it’s Liverpool who go on to face either Aston Villa or West Bromwich Albion in the final.
The young Blues started with confidence and were on the front foot early on, moving the ball around the field nicely and creating chances from wide positions, testing the Liverpool defence with dangerous balls into the box.
But it was home goalkeeper Ridd who was called into action first, getting down well to hold James Norris’s driven cross on a night where he started in place of Antoni Bort, who suffered a concussion in the quarter-final victory over Sheffield United.
Dom Corness was the next to test him, with the Town goalkeeper claiming at the second attempt, before he had to push Norris’s effort round the post as Liverpool began to move through the gears after the first 20 minutes.
Town maintained an attacking threat, though, with Albie Armin and Agbaje getting forward from full-back to cross, before Liam Gibbs and Humphreys had shots blocked en route to goal.
Gibbs was next to try his luck as Town enjoyed another good spell of possession, curling a cross which Liverpool goalkeeper Harvey Davies was able to hold, before a clever lay-off from visiting midfielder Tyler Morton laid the ball off for Musialowski to shoot. Ridd was equal to it again, diving to his right to save.
Then the first big moment of the match as a clever run and cross from Gibbs on the byline looped up nicely for Agbaje, who preceded to head into the ground, with Liverpool keeper Davies scooping the ball up onto the crossbar before it dropped down and it was adjudged to have crossed the line.
The right-back slid into the corner as the Town bench erupted, with the goal coming just seconds before the half-time whistle blew.
The Blues emerged for the second period just 45 minutes away from the final, but were on the backfoot early on as first Max Woltman and then Conor Bradley blazed shots over the top of the bar as Liverpool pulled Town defenders out of position.
Despite being penned back into their own territory, Town still found avenues to attack as an Alfie Cutbush interception allowed Humphreys to cross for Nico Valentine, who shaped to shoot but could only send his effort over the top of the bar.
The visitors’ pressure did eventually tell, just after the hour mark as Musialowski twisted and turned on the edge of the Ipswich area before firing a shot past Ridd with the aid of a big deflection off a Town defender.
Town again kept on the front foot but, once goal scorer Musialowski was replaced by Frauendorf, the substitute popped up to fire home with his first real involvement to put the visitors ahead.
Ipswich battled on, pushing Elkan Baggott up front in search of an equaliser, but it wasn’t to be as the Town players slumped to the turf in disappointment as the full-time whistle blew.
Ipswich Town: Ridd, Agbaje (sub Manly 82), Alexander, Stewart, Baggott, Armin, Valentine, Cutbush (sub Bello 63), Buabo (sub Chirewa 82), Gibbs, Humphreys.
Subs: Catley, Bradshaw, Nwabueze, Boatswan.
Liverpool: Davies, Bradley, Quansah, Koumetio, Norris, Stephenson, Corness, Morton, Woltman, Balagizi, Musialowski (sub Frauendorf 78).
Subs: Mrozek, Jonas, Chambers, Wilson, Mabaya, Bajcetic.