A rare goal from the unlikeliest of sources in West Ham United Development Squad centre-back Josh Pask was enough to give Terry Westley’s men a shock victory away at high-flyers Liverpool in the Premier League 2 Division 1 on Saturday afternoon.
The game’s only strike came in only the third minute of the affair, Pask getting himself on the end of a Marcus Browne delivery to beat Caoimhin Kelleher between the sticks and give his team a dream start.
Neil Critchley’s hosts tried to hit back throughout the 90 minutes, the likes of Herbie Kane and Liam Millar going close for them, but never close enough to rescue a draw.
A surprise home defeat for the Reds leaves them still at the very summit of the standings, though that could change for the first time in months after Arsenal have faced Leicester City on Monday night, while the Hammers stay sixth and have now all but secured safety in their first campaign in the PL2 Division 1.
From the start at Liverpool’s Academy base of Kirby Training Ground, home manager Critchley decided on three changes to his side in the wake of their Premier League Cup loss away at Bristol City.
Departing from the team were 17-year-old Tom Clayton, Portuguese Toni Gomes and Rafael Camacho, they were replaced by Welshman Jordan Williams, George Johnston and exciting young forward Liam Millar, who was sure to prove a handful to the defence.
Meanwhile, visiting boss Westley made a mere two alterations to his starting Xl that were held by strugglers Tottenham Hotspur at the Chigwell Construction Stadium in the League last Monday evening.
In defence, vice-captain Josh Powell was relegated to the bench in favour of full-back Vashon Neufville and further up the field, striker Jahmal Hector-Ingram took the place of the injured Domingos Quina.
Right from the get-go on Merseyside, the East Londoners bossed their opposition, who have now lost four in five in the PL2, on their way to a deserved three points.
They were able to deal the home side a huge blow within 180 seconds in Kirby, and it all came from an excellent delivery from talisman Browne, continuing to excel since returning from injury.
His free-kick picked out defender Pask who brought the ball down with a little bit of help from a defender and stabbed a volley into the back of the net, little did he know that his second of the campaign would turn out to be the match-winner.
It was quite the wonder that it did, given the amount of goalmouth action that the exciting encounter had to offer as it progressed, though much of it was the visitors looking to extend their lead.
Pask was once more involved, playing Oladapo Afolayan in on the right, though his cross was blocked, and he also couldn’t convert a delivery from Hector-Ingram minutes later, a much clearer opportunity.
This came in the moments that followed the Reds’ first real opening, Johnston getting into a great position, unable to test Nathan Trott with his effort, however.
At the other end, the chances carried on flowing, Hector-Ingram was slid in beyond the hosts’ defence on a number of occasions, unable to make the most of it.
Browne had also almost tested Kelleher out with a free-kick that sailed inches over the bar but left-back Neufville did call him into action, the Irishman tipping his shot over the bar to keep the advantage slim at half-time.
The story of the second period would be similar to the first, though Liverpool did look to be in the affair a little more and even had a few chances to escape with a draw.
Conor Masterson sent the best of them by the wayside having been picked by Yan Dhanda, diverting a free header wide of goal with under 15 minutes of normal time remaining on the clock.
Montenegro International Sead Haksabanovic was the man to almost wrap things up for the Irons also in the later stages, rifling a cross come shot across goal with no touch on the end of it to turn the ball home.
But, the real highlight of the second-half for Westley’s boys was their impressive defensive performance in a 45 that had far fewer chances and plenty more possession for both teams.
In the final ten minutes, 15-year-old Dan Chesters came on to make his U23 debut for the team in black and blue, helping the away side to hold out for a huge victory, adding to the leaders’ recent misery.
The Claret & Blue youngsters have now pulled off triumphs over Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in the PL2 in 2017/2018.
Whereas, in the wake of one more afternoon to forget for the red half of Merseyside, their once-formidable title challenge has capitulated even further, they may face a fall to second place by the end of this PL2 Matchday on Monday evening also.
Next up for them will be a Premier League Cup trip to face off with Stoke City next Monday night, before they return to PL2 action early in the month of March, travelling to Leicester.
While the young Hammers will now enjoy the best part of two weeks basking in the glory of their second victory of 2018, next up, they will return to the North West of the Country to do battle with Manchester City.