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Rafael Benitez watches Liverpool Reserves defeat Wigan Athletic at Warrington
RAFAEL Benitez joined Gary Ablett on the bench at The Halliwell Jones Stadium this evening as Liverpool Reserves ended their run of four successive defeats with a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic.
Ablett revealed that the Reds’ first team boss offered some words of encouragement at half time and the Spaniard would have been delighted to see his compatriot Daniel Pacheco score the only goal of the game in the 66th minute, converting an inviting cross from Vincent Weijl.
The Dutch winger was a constant thorn in Wigan’s side, linking up effectively with the impressive Argentine left back Emiliano Insua and supplying a steady stream of accurate crosses and shots on goal.
Yet it was Wigan who threatened to take all three points in the first half of the Barclays Premier Reserve League North clash, forcing Liverpool’s Australian goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis to make a string of vital interceptions, including a point-blank save from Joe Holt.
Despite the Latics’ early dominance Liverpool had enjoyed plenty of possession and they carved out their best opportunity of the half in the 33rd minute.
Weijl tore down the left wing, planting a cross on Jordy Brouwer’s head only to see the former Ajax star head weakly into the arms of veteran custodian Mike Pollitt.
Ablett was forced to withdraw his captain Stephen Derby at the end of the first period after he picked up a knock – an injury which may cause some concern for Benitez as the Liverpudlian right back provides the only natural cover to Alvaro Arbeloa in his squad following the long term injury to Swiss fullback Philip Degen.
The managerial duo’s halftime pep talk certainly galvanised the young side, with Liverpool taking command after the break.
Weijl continued to shine, seeing a shot deflected just wide on 51 minutes, and Insua was unlucky not to open the scoring four minutes later with a 35-yard piledriver that sailed just inches high of Pollitt’s goal.
Brouwer missed another golden opportunity on the hour, failing to score from close range after brilliant work from Pacheco.
Fortunately for Liverpool the pint-sized playmaker was not so merciful moments later when he finished a move of his own instigation.
Driving into the box Liverpool’s number 10 found Weijl with a pass that bobbled into the winger’s path.
The 18-year-old managed to control the ball before delivering a dangerous cross that Pacheco slammed home.
Liverpool squandered several further openings, Pacheco and substitute Andras Simon, on for the disappointing Brouwer, somehow contriving to waste a two-on-one situation.
But the Reds held on to secure their second league victory of the season, providing an early birthday present for Gary Ablett, who turns 43 tomorrow, in front of 785 fans.
Liverpool Reserves: Dean Bouzanis, Stephen Darby (Daniel Ayala 45), Emiliano Insua, Mikel San Jose Dominguez, Martin Kelly, Damien Plessis, Gerardo Bruna (Francisco Duran 65), Jay Spearing, Jordy Brouwer (Andras Simon, 73), Daniel Pacheco, Vincent Weijl. Unused subs: Peter Gulacsi, Steven Irwin
Wigan Athletic Reserves: Mike Pollitt, Lewis Field, Adam Buxton, Jon Routledge (Callum McManaman 80), Andrew Pearson, Luke Ashworth, Craig Mahon, Matty Hampson, Tomasz Cywka, Joe Holt, Tomasz Kupisz. Unused subs: Jonathan Breeze, Keenan Gracey, Daniel Barrie, Stephen Chiocchi.
Warrington Guardian man of the match: Vincent Weijl. A name to watch over the coming year - he bewitched Wigan’s defence for 90 minutes.
Click here for more of our Liverpool Reserves coverage.