Kaide Gordon inspires remarkable comeback as Liverpool keep title hopes alive

Kaide Gordon inspired a memorable comeback as Liverpool kept alive their Premier League 2 campaign in remarkable fashion by beating Crystal Palace.

Gordon scored twice and assisted a goal for Trey Nyoni as the Reds under-21 side netted three times in four second-half minutes to turn around a two-goal half-time deficit and win 3-2 in their opening play-off at the Academy in Kirkby on Sunday afternoon.

Barry Lewtas's side were paired to face the Londoners in the first round of the new knockout stage to determine the league winners having finished eighth at the end of the regular season.

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Liverpool were missing several players through injury, including midfielder Bobby Clark and forward Jayden Danns. However, they were able to call on first-team experience in Gordon, James McConnell, Lewis Koumas, Nyoni and Melkamu Frauendorf, who lined up at right-back.

There was an incident-packed opening two minutes. Palace forward Ademola Ola-Adebomi was sent clear but had his effort saved by Liverpool goalkeeper Fabian Mrozek who, after the ball was then recycled, dropped a straightforward high punt and then hauled down a nearby Palace player to concede a penalty. Mrozek, though, redeemed himself with a fantastic full-length save diving to his right to keep out Roshaun Mathurin's spot kick.

The Reds had strong claims for a penalty of their own later in the half when Palace midfielder Dylan Reid appeared to handle a shot, but the visitors went ahead moments later on 36 minutes from another spot kick. This time, McConnell lost the ball inside the area and, in attempting to atone for his mistake, fouled Mathurin. The Palace men stepped up again, and put his penalty in the same place as Mrozek this time dived in the opposite direction.

Liverpool's best chance of the half came when Gordon embarked on a run from inside his own half but shot too close to Palace goalkeeper Joe Whitworth. And seconds later the visitors doubled their lead on 44 minutes, when Mathurin released Noah Watson to score underneath Mrozek.

Dan Imray clipped the outside of the post early in the second half for Palace but, inspired by Gordon, Liverpool turned the game on its head with four goals in three minutes. The first, on 57 minutes, was prompted by Frauendorf releasing Tommy Pilling down the right-hand edge of the area to deliver a low cross into the six-yard box. After Koumas failed to force the ball home in a frantic scramble, it fell for Gordon to finish cleverly from close range.

Gordon's second two minutes later, though, was a stupendous effort from range, his shot arcing over Whitworth. And the winger then turned provider by laying off for Nyoni to curl home a brilliant shot in from 25 yards.

Palace responded strongly and began to launch a barrage of long balls into the Reds area during the final 10 minutes, only for home centre-backs Carter Pinnington and Arama Nallo to excel and Mrozek make an excellent late save to deny Imray.

Liverpool will now play either Tottenham Hotspur, who finished top, and Aston Villa in the play-off quarter-finals. The tie will be played over next weekend.

LIVERPOOL U21s (4-3-3): Mrozek; Frauendorf (Spearing 79), Pinnington, Nallo, Davidson; McConnell (Blair 85), Pilling, Nyoni; Gordon, Koumas, Morrison. Subs: O Kelly, K Kelly, Laffey. BOOKING: McConnell, Nallo.