Palembang: A jet-lagged Liverpool FC stormed to a 6-5 win over Frenz United Indonesia (FUI) in the opening Group A match of the Frenz U18 International Cup 2015 (FIC) at Stadium Gelora Sriwijaya in Jakabaring, Palembang today.
The defeat was a blow to FUI’s hopes of qualifying for quarterfinals now after having taken the lead five times in this high-scoring match only to bow in despair.
“I think it was a fantastic performance from Liverpool to win this match despite just being here in Indonesia very much late,” said head coach Critchley Neil. “But we hope to play better and acclimatise to conditions here in the next few days.”
In Kuala Lumpur, Gamba Osaka opened their campaigned with a 3-1 win over Turkey’s Besiktas J.K. in a Group C match at the Maybank Sports Complex in Bangi. The win clearly buoyed their hopes of advancing to the last eight of the tournament.
Liverpool, who had only arrived 16 hours before kick-off in this third edition of the FIC, were left back paddling in the first 20 minutes as FUI took a 2-1 lead with goals from Iranian-import Reza Habel Karimi (10th minute) and Malaysian Yugan Poobathy added the second three minutes later.
Midfielder Nicholas Callum James pulled one back for Liverpool in the 19th minute from a goalmouth melee, beating goalkeeper Azman Barran Muhammad Siagian.
Both FUI goals came from well-maneuvered moves by Reza and Yugan who cleverly lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Jackson Alan who had stepped out of his territory to thwart the marauding FUI strikers, a combination of players from Indonesia, Malaysia and Iran, after Liverpool defenders had failed in their mission.
Battling jet-lag following a 14-hour flight to Jakarta from London and then transit to Palembang, Liverpool were not only left to rue their early chances but paid the price of a slow build-up in defence as Reza helped himself to his second goal and FUI’s third in the 35th minute.
But the English club were back in the groove as Liverpool captain Wilson Herry pounced on a loose ball seconds before the interval to narrow the score 3-2.
However, FUI’s leaky defence showed up glaringly in the second half as a rejuvenated Liverpool enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and found the equaliser in the 52nd minute through midfielder Correia Gomes Toni before Bayu Firmansyah added the fourth for the hosts to make it 4-3.
But Liverpool were once again on track with Philip Adams tapppig the ball home to make it 4-4 in the 67th minute but FUI were not over as substitute Rizwan Yuswan pushedLiverpool against the wall with the fifth goal much to the delight of the fans here.
FUI simply could not turn their dominance of the ball into the solid currency of three points and were undone in the 73rd and 75th minutes as Liverpool’s Harry scored his second and Toni fired home the winning goals.
FUI head coach, Mohamad Zahid Hashim, looking dejected with the results, said: “I would have been happy if this match had ended in a draw. We took control but gave it away. We lost to individual play as Liverpool players were very commanding individually.”
Japanese-side Gamba Osaka gave a sterling performance from Taichi Takeda and substitute Ryutaro Meshino as they nailed the Turkish side, which finished third in the last edition.
“It was a tight game and the weather here was not kind but we kept our motivation high to carry on and win the game,” said Gamba head coach Hironari Umezu.
The Japanese one-touch brand of football paid dividends in the 31st minute after Takamasa Sugiyama left his marker on the right flank and found Taichi who only needed a simple tap for the opening goal.
In the second half, Gamba picked up where they left off, and continued to pressure Besiktas’, keeping their goalkeeper Enes Fideyao on his toes.
Ryotaro came in for Akito Takagi in the 71st minute, but needed only three minutes to make an impact as his through pass found Takeda, who scored his second goal of the match.
Besiktas finally got on the score sheet after Fatih Aksoy put one pass Osaka goalkeeper Kenta Watanabe 60 seconds after the game restarted, but Ryutaro restored Osaka’s two-goal lead in the 81st minute after finding the net from the edge of the box.
Match Schedule – Sunday (4 Jan, 2015):
In Palembang – Group B: S.C Internacional (Brazil) v Valencia CF (Spain) 4.0pm; Chonburi FC (Thailand) v Kashima Antlers (Japan), 8.0pm (Both matches to be played at Stadium Gelora Sriwijaya).
In Kuala Lumpur – Group D: AIFF U18 (India) v Estudiantes FC (Argentina), 4.30pm (Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Shah Alam Stadium); Frenz United Malaysia v Totenham Hotspurs (England), 9.0pm (Shah Alam Stadium).