Brendan Rodgers's team of Liverpool young men marked their 100th UEFA Cup and Europa League match with a stunning victory over Young Boys of Bern, winning 5-3 in the Wankdorf Stadium.
An extremely fortuitous own goal got Liverpool off to a dream start before an aberration in the Liverpool defence from Jose Enrique saw Raphael Nuzzolo equalise for the Swiss side.
Liverpool restored their lead within a minute thanks to a debut goal from Andre Wisdom but conceded two quick-fire second-half goals, before strikes from Sebastian Coates and a Jonjo Shelvey double sealed a dramatic win.
In a risky ploy, Liverpool manager Rodgers chose to leave key players Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Jose Reina, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Joe Allen and Martin Kelly behind in preparation for Sunday’s key Premier League clash against Manchester United, instead throwing his own young boys into the fray, the likes of Wisdom, Nuri Sahin, Daniel Pacheco and Suso all starting in Berne.
Rodgers opted to start with a 4-3-2-1 formation, playing Pacheco on his own up front and the visitors were rewarded with a gift of a goal when Juhani Ojala cannoned a header straight at Cristoph Spycher and past the stranded Marco Wolfli.
A minute later, Young Boys were almost level when Raul Bobadilla ghosted in behind Jamie Carragher but saw hit shot well saved by Brad Jones. The hosts then had a decent shout for a penalty turned down when Gonzalo Zarate crumpled under a challenge from Carragher but Suso missed a chance to put Liverpool further ahead when he dallied too long in the box before shooting.
Liverpool looked comfortable at 1-0 and had only themselves to blame when Enrique dribbled the ball past Jones under pressure from Bobadilla before passing straight into the path of Nuzzolo who could not miss.
Despite the missed opportunity, Liverpool had their lead back within a minute thanks to a fantastic debut goal from Wisdom, who rose to power in a header direct from Oussama Assaidi’s corner. A frantic half ended with Young Boys on the attack, Alexander Farnerud cracking a shot against the outside of the post.
If the first half ended at a frantic pace, the second half began in a similar fashion. Young Boys came out on the offensive and were quickly on terms, Ojala scoring at the right end with a glancing header from Bobadilla’s pinpoint cross.
Liverpool barely had time to gather their thoughts before they were behind, Zarate latching onto Bobadilla’s pass to lift a sumptuous left foot finish past the advancing Jones.
The goal spurred Rodgers into change and on came Fabio Borini and Shelvey. It seemed to do the trick and the visitors were back on terms with five minutes, Coates guiding in a free kick as Borini failed to get the final touch.
The addition of Raheem Sterling gave Liverpool extra impetus and a wonderful move saw Borini cross to Jordan Henderson, who squared unselfishly back to Shelvey to fire home. Liverpool still were not done and it was left for Shelvey to rattle in his second and his team’s fifth as the Young Boys defence generously backed off him.
In tonight’s other Group A match, Udinese drew 1-1 at home to Anzhi in a result that sees Liverpool take early control of the group. Liverpool next host Italians Udinese at Anfield on October 4.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jordan Henderson – Liverpool: Worked tirelessly for Liverpool in the midfield and was the standout youngster. Helped set up his team’s vital fourth.
Liverpool: Jones 6, Enrique 6, Coates 7, Carragher 6, Wisdom 7, Sahin 6, Henderson 7, Downing 6, Assaidi 7, Pacheco 6, Suso. SUBS: Sterling 6, Shelvey 7, Borini 6.
MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS