Manchester City and Liverpool are battling for supremacy in the Premier League and there was little to choose between them in the FA Youth Cup final either, the Merseyside team winning the trophy for the first time since 2007 after extra time and penalties.
City looked to have the match won in normal time once Nabil Touaizi put them ahead at the end of the first half but an opportunist effort from Bobby Duncan levelled the scores four minutes from the end.
Cole Palmer hit the bar with City’s second penalty of the shootout, and with Liverpool putting all five away, it was Paul Glatzel’s final kick that claimed victory for the visitors.
While strictly speaking cup finals should not feature visitors, City were operating with home advantage because this was the first time the competition has been decided by a single game. Finals have been two-leg affairs, sometimes one-sided ones at that in the period of Chelsea’s supremacy over the past five years, though it was felt a single match would provide more of an occasion. Liverpool and City did not disappoint and neither did the latter’s Academy Stadium, an ideal choice for two sides from the north-west.
Liverpool survived a scare in the opening minute when Adrián Bernabé reached the byline and cut back for Touaizi to bring a save from Vitezslav Jaros, though after an initial period of dominance City were gradually forced back. Jake Cain saw a shot saved before a tremendous run and shot by the left-back Yasser Larouci almost broke the deadlock. The attempt from 30 yards looked ambitious but it took a deflection and almost looped over Louie Moulden in the City goal, who had to stretch to tip the ball over the bar.
Liverpool then enjoyed their best period of the first half, with Leighton Clarkson and Cain impressive in midfield. They would have taken the lead had not Taylor Harwood-Bellis been around to clear off the line from the latter after a weak clearance from Moulden had invited a shot.
City possessed a pair of tricky wingers in Bernabé and Ben Knight, although their decision-making and final ball were not always the best. Their best chance before Touaizi made a breakthrough on the stroke of the interval came through the middle when Felix Nmecha played a through ball for Thomas Doyle, who managed to reach it and turn in the area, only for his shot to find the side-netting. In first-half stoppage time City’s persistence down the left gained its reward. Jeremie Frimpong put Bernabé in behind Neco Williams and his low cross was met by Touaizi at the near post with a neat finish that found the narrowest of gaps between Jaros and his right-hand upright.
Touaizi had a chance to extend City’s lead early in the second half but shot too tamely at Jaros, while at the other end Abdi Sharif put more venom into an attempt but directed it straight at Moulden. Sharif had another go five minutes later and this time Moulden beat the shot away with his fists.
City lost their captain, Eric Garcia, to injury after an hour and had to defend with some determination. They were undone by a couple of late mistakes. First Nmecha lost possession in a dangerous area, then Moulden let a speculative potshot at goal from Duncan, who left City acrimoniously in 2017, slip through his hands.
With players cramping up all over the pitch it was a surprise the extra half hour did not produce more mistakes, but the sides grittily matched each other to the end. City saw a penalty appeal for handball turned down and fared no better in the shootout.