PHILIPP Degen opened the scoring but fell victim to yet another injury in an entertaining 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Manchester United’s reserves at The Halliwell Jones Stadium this evening.

The Swiss international slotted the ball into an empty net just four minutes into his comeback following a horrendous mix-up between Tomasz Kuszczak and Robbie Brady.

However, the injury prone right back lasted only 24 minutes before limping off with a suspected groin strain.

Goals from Danny Welbeck and Fabio Da Silva put the visitors ahead before the break, but an equaliser from Daniel Pacheco earned Gary Ablett’s side a point in front of 3,995 fans.

While failing to match last year's turnout, those in attendance witnessed a full-blooded encounter that began at breakneck speed.

The only thing missing was the presence of former Winwick Athletic junior James Chester, who had been expected to captain the United side.

Nevertheless, Welbeck could have put his team ahead inside 15 seconds as Daniel Drinkwater's cross was deflected onto his chest, only to spiral inches wide.

Minutes later a long raking ball from Spanish centre half Mikel San Jose found Degen, who capitalised on some calamitous defending when neither goalkeeper nor defender took responsibility.

Operating out on the right wing the fullback had made the perfect start but it turned into a nightmare as he pulled up in pain and was replaced by Ryan Crowther a few minutes after an impressive United equaliser.

Midfielder Matthew James fed Welbeck who burst through the Reds’ backline, taking a touch and beating goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis with an exquisite chip.

With Rodrigo Possebon pulling the strings in midfield Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side pushed for the lead and Drinkwater had a shot palmed wide by Bouzanis in the 32nd minute.

The elusive Lee Martin looked a constant threat and while Welbeck was unable to convert an easy chance to extend United’s lead, another goal for the visitors seemed only a matter of time.

That strike came in the 36th minute as Martin supplied Fabio - twin brother of first team star Rafael - with the Brazilian sliding an assured finish past Bouzanis.

On the stroke of half time Liverpool’s Brazilian striker Victor Flora was the next player to have his evening cut short by injury, seemingly also suffering from a groin problem.

Yet his early shower proved to be a decisive moment in the outcome of the contest as Jay Spearing, fresh from an all-action cameo against Real Madrid, entered the fray to rapturous applause and boos in equal measures from a divided crowd.

The 20-year-old midfielder galvanised his colleagues and Liverpool launched into attack, reaping the benefits just four minutes after the interval.

The enigmatic Vincent Weijl surged down the left flank before laying a pass into the path of Daniel Pacheco who drove his shot low and hard into the far corner of Kuszczak’s net.

A series of hard and not always fair challenges ensued as both teams became bogged down in a midfield battle dominated by Spearing’s presence.

The referee became the centre of attention as somewhat dubious penalty appeals from the United faithful were waved away in the 71st minute after the ball had appeared to strike Martin Kelly’s arm and ten minutes later Ritchie De Laet earned himself a booking, his cynical foul cutting short a bewitching run from Weijl.

In the closing moments United could have snatched victory, Bouzanis making a good save from substitute Oliver Norwood’s free kick.

But the two north west giants were forced to settle for a point each in an engaging appetiser ahead of Saturday's crunch Premiership showdown at Old Trafford.

Liverpool Reserves: Dean Bouzanis, Emmanuel Mendy (Ronald Huth 82), Steven Irwin, Mikel San Jose, Martin Kelly, Damien Plessis, Phillip Degen (Ryan Crowther 24), Victor Palsson, Vitor Flora (Spearing 44), Daniel Pacheco, Vincent Weijl. Subs not used: Martin Hansen, Lauri Dalla Valle.

Manchester United Reserves: Tomasz Kuszczak, Richard Eckersley, Fabio Da Silva (Oliver Norwood 66), Corry Evans, Ritchie De Laet, Matthew James, Rodrigo Possebon, Daniel Drinkwater, Danny Welbeck, Lee Martin, Robert Brady (James Derbyshire 82).

Subs not used: Gary Woods, Oliver Gill, Antonio Bryan.

Warrington Guardian man of the match: Jay Spearing. After rattling Real Madrid on Tuesday night he returned to reserve team football and inspired an impressive fightback.