Liverpool 0-0 Derby (3-2p) – The Final Written Word

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Liverpool 0-0 Derby (3-2p) – The Final Written Word

By: Collin Hockenbury.

It’s a rare treat for Liverpool fans when Jurgen sends Pep Lijnders to the press conferences before the cup games. At times, the Dutchman comes across as a professor of football rather than a coach. His passion for the game and love of helping young players grow are always evidenced by his deep, detailed, enthusiastic answers to questions. When you put the performance against Derby and Pep’s comments together, paying special attention to our squad players and youngsters, Liverpool’s philosophy as a club is clear. 

Here are the biggest takeaways after the Reds dug deep for a penalty shootout win, sending us to the Fourth Round of the Carabao Cup.

We left it up to the kids.

When asked about the potential for youth in the lineup, Lijnders didn’t give away any hints about the personnel. But he did confirm there would be opportunities for young players. Because there needed to be. 

“If you work for this club, you have to, you have to trust young players because the generations before made this club… So, of course, we want to see them, because it would be idiotic not to do… otherwise, all the time, all the energy, all the money we invest… it doesn’t make sense to have two hundred young boys [at the academy] running around and then not use it. They never let us down.”

The starting 11 showed the staff’s belief in those words. Giving young players minutes was ultimately prioritized over the result: a potential long-term gain over a short-term reward.

As expected, Kelleher, Phillips, Gomez and Tsimikas all started along the backline. Oxlade-Chamberlain took his place in midfield and Fabio Carvalho took his on the left side of our front three. From there, it was all youth. 19-year-old right-back Calvin Ramsay made his first club start after signing from Aberdeen this summer. 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic anchored the midfield as our pivot and 17-year-old Bobby Clark started on the left of a midfield three. Most surprisingly of all, 18-year-old Melkamu Frauendorf started on the right wing and 20-year-old striker Layton Stewart made his first-team debut.


Ramsay and Bajcetic showed why they’re highly rated.

Clark and Frauendorf were sharp in possession and tracked back with intensity. Stewart was relatively quiet but created a great chance for himself, jumping on a loose Derby touch and laying it off to Carvalho before skying the return pass over the bar. But in the end, Ramsay and Bajcetic made the biggest impression of the five young starters, remaining on the field for the full 90. 

Though Bajcetic has a really loose, casual style, the former centre-back doesn’t shirk a tackle or shy away from a bold pass. He had a few too many giveaways and sliced some shots from range, but he was involved in all phases of the game. He clearly has the size and football intelligence to merit a place in the squad. The next step is maturity—namely patience in the attacking third and safety first when the ball is near our own box.

Ramsay looked even more ready for first-team action. A tall, strong defender, he used his experience in the Scottish league and his physicality to shepherd away Derby attacks time and time again. He loves to cut inside and clip balls into the box or combine with our forward players, too, and these attacking instincts are invaluable in a Klopp team. Only time will tell, but he looks like he could become a solid backup on the right, much like Kostas on the left.

Ben Doak has the attributes to become a star. 

Lijnders shot down the notion that the only way to stay relevant as a top side is through the transfer market. Instead, he insisted, you have to combine signings who are ready for the first 11 with the development of youth, whether it’s investing in someone outside the club or bringing an academy player into the fold. 

“We cannot afford to buy and not be right,” he explained. “And it has to add something to our team. Something special, something new.”

“We prefer to have the right one, and to really work with, and give time as well for young ones to really work with. And like this, add and add and add… and renew the team and make it younger and younger and younger.” 

Ben Doak, two days shy of his 17th birthday, replaced Carvalho on 74 minutes and proved Lijnders’ point. 

The Scot played simple when he needed to, but when presented with a little breathing room, he put his head down and ran bravely at the left side of the Derby defence every chance he got. His close control, pace and eye for a cross led to numerous involvements and chances created in the last 15 minutes of the game. Even in the small spaces, Derby provided, he had the technical ability and dynamism to cause all sorts of problems. Bobby, Elliott and Darwin came on late, too, but it was Doak who caught the eye. If we look after him and he continues to perform at that level, he could save us tens of millions on a winger down the line. 

Kelleher does it again.

Unprompted, Lijnders harkened back to last year’s final, singling out Caoimhin Kelleher as an example of a player who grew from an academy prospect into a dependable member of the first team. 

“I see Caoimhin celebrating in Wembley, taking the last penalty… he was 15 when we signed him. He was my goalie at that time. And we meet after the game. These moments for me mean ten times more than even winning the cup competition. To see a young boy become a man.”

The Irishman delivered again, winning his fourth shootout as a Red—the most by any player in the club’s history.

The 90 minutes were nothing more than an exercise in concentration for Kelleher, who could have sat in the six-yard box and read the newspaper if he wanted. We could—probably should—have walked away with at least a 1-0 win, but Derby got the penalties they came for. Kelleher emerged as the hero.

Derby keeper Joe Wildsmith tried to make the headlines himself. He made some decent saves during regular time, but his biggest impact came from wasting time by laying down or moving the ball to the other side of the six to take goal kicks. When the shootout came, Wildsmith saved our first penalty from Bajcetic by jumping comically far off his line—the linesman gave him a warning, but bizarrely didn’t call for a retake.

That’s when Kelleher took over, saving Derby’s second, third and fifth pens—spectacularly denying the fifth taker by swiping the ball away with a huge left paw. 

It was a fitting end to a night that was all about giving opportunities to the guys who have patiently waited for their chance. Whether or not we make it past City at the Etihad after the World Cup is immaterial in some ways. Odds are one of these newcomers will follow in the footsteps of Kelleher, Elliott, Jones, and Trent. For that to happen, we’ll need more nights like Wednesday.


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