Young Boys 3 Liverpool 5: Shelvey wins eight-goal thriller for Rodgers' second string
19:04 GMT, 20 September 2012
Liverpool escaped with their 41-year unbeaten record against Swiss teams intact but a sloppy defensive performance almost cost them in their Europa League Group A encounter against Young Boys.
That Brendan Rodgers' second-string side, which included a trio of debutants – two of whom were teenagers – scored five times was something of a surprise considering the struggles of the first-team this season.
They were given an early helping hand thanks to a comical own goal from Juhani Ojala and 19-year-old Andre Wisdom scored on his debut after Raphael Nuzzolo had equalised following a Jose Enrique error.
20/20 vision: Jonjo Shelvey sealed the tie with two late goals
Young Boys: Wolfli, Sutter, Veskovac, Ojala, Raimondi, Zverotic (Frey 81), Spycher, Zarate (Gonzalez 65), Farnerud, Nuzzolo (Schneuwly 69), Bobadilla.
Subs not used: Benito, Vitkieviez, Costanzo, Lecjaks.
Booked: Raimondi, Veskovac, Bobadilla.
Goal: Nuzzolo 38, Ojala 52, Zarate 63.
Liverpool: Jones, Wisdom, Carragher, Coates, Jose Enrique, Henderson, Sahin, Fernandez Saez, Assaidi (Shelvey 66), Downing (Sterling 77), Pacheco (Borini.
Subs not used: Gulacsi, Wilson, Yesil, Robinson.
Goals: Ojala (og) 4, Wisdom 40, Coates 67, Shelvey 76, 88.
Referee: Michail Koukoulakis (Greece).
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But Ojala then headed in at the right
end and Gonzalo Zarate made it 3-2 before the match turned around again
when Sebastian Coates headed in and then Jonjo Shelvey scored twice.
It was the first time Liverpool had
scored more than once in eight European away matches and their first in
any group stage game away from home since beating PSV in December 2008.
Rodgers wanted to give his younger
players a chance to prove they were good enough and while they may not
have convinced him he will not have to make 11 changes for Sunday's
visit of Manchester United – having left the likes of Steven Gerrard and
Luis Suarez at home – they at least displayed the character he was
Despite concerns about the
inexperience of the squad, having left eight senior players at home, the
average age of the starting line-up was 24 – although that was pushed
up slightly by 34-year-old Jamie Carragher.
Their veteran centre-back was the
only player on the field who played in Liverpool's last away win in
European competition – excluding qualifiers – when the Reds beat
Romanians Unirea in February 2010.
Celebration time: Andre Wisdom (left) is hailed by Jordan Henderson and Jesus Fernandez Saez
On target: Andre Wisdom put Liverpool 2-1 up with this header
The comedy started in the fourth minute when the Young Boys' defence got themselves in a tangle for no discernible reason.
Stewart Downing's right-wing cross
did not look to be threatening but Dusan Veskovac headed the ball back
across goal and his central defensive partner Ojala headed in.
That was only the beginning as
Wisdom's inexperience at this level caught him out when he went to fetch
the ball thinking he had a throw-in.
While he was off the pitch a ballboy
tossed another to Young Boys, who quickly restarted, leaving Wisdom –
more accustomed to the reserve team where you fetch your own ball –
running back on still carrying the ball he had chased.
But if that error was down to
inexperience, Jose Enrique's decision to dribble away from the hands of
Brad Jones in the 38th minute was bad judgement as he passed straight to
Nuzzolo – who drilled in a first-time shot before Jones had time to
Wisdom, however, came to his
defensive colleague's rescue two minutes later when he produced a huge
leap to head home Nuri Sahin's corner.
Zero to hero: Juhani Ojada scored for both sides
The goal was Liverpool's 200th in this competition since they first took part in 1967-68.
Wisdom was also the first Reds
defender to score on his club debut since Gabriel Paletta in October
2006 – which is where the England Under-19 international will want the
comparison to end.
Just before the break Alexander
Farnerud, who had earlier failed in trying to claim a penalty for
Carragher's challenge, hit a low shot against Jones' right-hand post.
The second half was less than 10
minutes old when Raul Bobadilla was given far too much room on the right
to pick out the run of Ojala to head in at the far post.
When Bobadilla outmuscled both
Carragher and Suso, another debutant, to send Zarate down right the
Argentinian neatly dinked over Jones.
Liverpool needed a quick response and
it came within four minutes as Coates' looping header crept in at the
far post with substitute Fabio Borini claiming a touch which was barely –
if at all – there.
Borini had a more decisive influence
on the winner as he picked out Jordan Henderson's run and the midfielder
cut the ball back for Shelvey to fire home – and the same player added a
similar second late on.
Rodgers' maiden Europa League
campaign is up and running in the most unlikely way – and the Northern
Irishman will be pleased his selection gamble did not backfire on him.