A late Jonjo Shelvey brace sealed a stunning 5-3 victory for a youthful Liverpool side against Young Boys in the opening game of its UEFA Europa League campaign on a whirlwind night at the Stade de Suisse.
Brendan Rodgers‘ side was twice pegged back in the thrilling encounter, which saw debutant Andre Wisdom power home a header to give them a 2-1 lead. However, Young Boys edged in front when Gonzalo Zarate lofted the ball over Brad Jones 10 minutes into the second half.
Sebastian Coates towered above the opposition back four to nod the Reds level before a calm side-footed finish from Shelvey put LFC back ahead in the 75th minute.
And the 20-year-old clinched a memorable victory for the visitors with a powerful run and shot at the death.
Rodgers handed debuts to Oussama Assaidi, Suso and Wisdom, and the newcomers looked comfortable from the word go as they settled into a Liverpool side intent on passing their opponents into submission.
And after a patient, incisive move that saw the Reds weave the ball about the park for what seemed like an eternity, they broke the deadlock.
Passing, moving, stopping and turning, Rodgers’ men stunned the home side with a combination of subtle movement and precise passing to carve an opening. The ball found its way out to Stewart Downing on the right flank and he burst towards the byline and whipped a cross into the center where Juhani Ojala turned the ball past his own ‘keeper for 1-0.
But just as the Reds fans, tucked away in the corner of the Stade de Suisse, were busy savouring such an explosive opener, Young Boys caught the Reds defence unawares. Raul Bobadilla sprung the offside trap and latched onto a perfectly weighted pass over the top of the Liverpool back four but Jones pushed his vicious effort into the side netting and behind.
At the other end, Assaidi had the travelling Kop on their feet in anticipation when he picked up a Dani Pacheco pass, shifted the ball onto his right foot and arrowed wide via a deflection.
Just after the half-hour mark, Jose Enrique bustled Zarate to the floor and the Greek referee Michael Koukoulakis indicated the player had been fouled outside the box, much to the frustration of the home crowd. However, the danger passed for Liverpool when Alexander Farnerud put too much power on his attempted cross and the ball sailed over Jones’ crossbar.
Suso almost doubled the Reds’ advantage when he slalomed through the heart of the Young Boys’ defence leaving a trail of yellow jerseys in his wake before choosing to slide the ball across the face of Marco Wolfli‘s penalty area rather than go for goal himself.
Moments later, Young Boys drew level. Enrique took control of a loose ball inside a packed penalty area but the full-back took one touch too many as the opposition closed in around him and the Spaniard could only clear to Raphael Nuzzolo, who fired home for 1-1.
But the celebrations of the raucous home support lasted for just two minutes as Wisdom wrote his name into the Liverpool history books by becoming the Reds’ fourth-youngest European goalscorer when he slammed home a towering header.
Wolfli was left with no chance when the young defender arrowed a Nuri Sahin corner into the bottom corner of his net.
After the interval, Young Boys applied all the pressure and began to turn the screw as the Reds’ defense was forced to battle against a series of onslaughts from the home side. And when Bobadilla whipped a fine cross into the area towards Ojala, the defender made amends for his earlier error by ducking in behind Coates and diverting the ball past Jones to equalise with a fine header.
Minutes later, the home team took the lead for the first time in the encounter.
Bobadilla used his strength to barge Jamie Carragher off the ball before outmanoeuvring the advancing Suso and threading the play into the path of Zarate. His pace took him away from Enrique and when Jones rushed out to meet him, the attacker lofted the ball beyond the ‘keeper with a delicate chip.
But the Reds fought on. Fabio Borini had been introduced just prior to Zarate’s goal and the Italian forced a corner by firing at Wolfli after Suso picked him out. The ball was swung in from the right and Coates was head and shoulders above the Young Boys defence to power a header home.
And then, with just under a quarter of an hour remaining, Liverpool went back ahead. Borini played a low pass across the penalty area to Jordan Henderson, who tapped the ball back into the path of Shelvey and the midfielder side-footed home for 4-3.
Shelvey wasn’t done there, however, and he wrapped up the win with a late drive to put the seal on a memorable night’s work in Switzerland.
Liverpoolfc.com journalists’ man of the match: Jonjo Shelvey
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