Liverpool Focus – Youngsters acquit themselves well in chaotic Europa League win

‘Show me what you can do’ was Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers’ message to his fringe players prior to the Europa League clash against Swiss side Young Boys and some of the Reds’ starlets grabbed the opportunity with both hands to give the boss some food for thought. Often in football, the final scoreline does not tell the full story of a game, but on this occasion it did. A 5-3 victory for the visitors included some comical defending from both sides coupled with a few excellent attacking moves made by Rodgers’ young team.

The former Swansea boss hinted that there could be places for the high-profile weekend fixture against rivals Manchester United up for grabs and he may now have little choice but to stand by that suggestion. Rodgers said: “If the players do well tomorrow night then there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t be involved at the weekend. I like to have a small squad because it gives players who might be just on the outskirts the motivation and an opportunity.”

Right-back Andre Wisdom, who is seemingly behind the likes of Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and John Flanagan in the pecking order, put in a solid performance and even managed to get on the scoresheet with an excellent header to put Liverpool 2-1 up. There were signs that exciting attacking midfielder Suso could soon be ready for more first-team action, while summer signing Oussama Assaidi provided some good wing play. Another player hungry for more action, Jordan Henderson, also impressed in midfield and Rodgers will have been particularly happy with how well and accurately the former Sunderland passed the ball.

But it was Jonjo Shelvey who really caught the eye with a superb cameo performance. The 20-year-old midfielder came on when Liverpool were 3-2 down and with just 25 to turn the game around – and he did exactly that. While he had little to do with the Reds pulling the score back to 3-3 immediately after he came on, Shelvey had everything to do with the next two goals. A good move involving Fabio Borini and Henderson allowed Shelvey to score his first, before a long-range drive sealed the win.

Despite their promising performances, Rodgers may feel that it would be too early to select Wisdom and Suso for the squad against Manchester United, but Assaidi could push for a place in the team. However, the biggest winner from the Young Boys game is likely to be one of either Henderson or Shelvey. While Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard’s place in the starting line-up this weekend are all but confirmed, Rodgers will pick from the two youngsters or Nuri Sahin to play at Anfield.

Liverpool will face tougher tests in their Europa League group, but it appears as though the competition will mainly be used for the purpose it was used on Thursday night – to hand the youngsters and fringe players some game time in order to allow them an opportunity to push for a place in the first-team. As Rodgers said before the game: “There’s no doubt the Premier League is our number one priority – but I see this tournament as an opportunity.”

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