Derby County’s Under-23s saw their impressive unbeaten run come to an end as they were beaten 1-0 by Liverpool in their first Premier League 2 - Division 1 fixture of 2022.
Eiran Cashin’s second half own goal proved to be the difference between the two sides at Loughborough University Stadium in an encounter of few clear opportunities in front of goal as the Rams and Reds cancelled each other out for long spells.
Pat Lyons' side ended 2021 with a six-match unbeaten run, which included three wins and a draw in the league to lift them out of the relegation zone and into 12th place, but they were unable to carry on where they left off in a hard-fought encounter against the Reds.
Two players moved down from the first-team squad to feature for the Under-23s in the form of left-back Dylan Williams and attacking midfielder Louie Watson and the duo were named in the starting line-up. Goalkeeper David Marshall was also due to start between the posts, but the Rams were forced into a late change and Harrison Foulkes came into the side.
Liverpool had an early chance to take the lead in a first half of few clear chances as James Norris fired an effort goalwards, but Rams defender Max Bardell got back to clear the ball off the line while at the other end Osazee Aghatise had a strike deflected wide from the edge of the box for Derby.
Bardell was called into more defensive action with 15 minutes played with the centre-back getting back well to deny Melkamu Frauendorf after the Rams failed to clear a free-kick into their penalty area.
Derby enjoyed some good spells in the half but they were unable to find a way through the Reds’ backline as the opening 45 minutes concluded with no goals.
The second period also began in a similar fashion, with plenty of play in the middle area of the pitch but little action to talk about in the two penalty areas.
Liverpool had two chances to take the lead after the hour mark with Leighton Clarkson having a free kick from the edge of the box blocked by the Derby wall, while Foulkes kept out Frauendorf’s low angled drive from the left-hand side of the area.
Liverpool eventually took the lead with 73 minutes played as Owen Beck’s cross the left-hand side proved to be an inviting one and skipper Cashin, stretching to keep the ball away from an onrushing Reds forward, could only turn the ball into his own net from a few yards out.
Derby pushed for a leveller to preserve their impressive run of form, with substitute Marko Borkovic having a dangerous cross-shot cut out at the near post, but Liverpool stood firm to claim all three points.
Derby’s Under-23s will head south to face Charlton Athletic in their penultimate Premier League Cup Group C fixture on Friday 14th January (7pm kick-off), before returning to Premier League 2 - Division 1 action with an away fixture against Leeds United on Monday 17th January (7pm kick-off).
Derby County Under-23s: Foulkes (GK), McDonald, Bardell, Cashin (C), Grewal-Pollard, Watson (Clarke 84), Dixon, I Hutchinson (Brown 68), Aghatise, Williams, Cybulski (Borkovic 68).
Substitutes Not Used: Marshall (GK), Solomon.
Liverpool Under-23s: Pitaluga (GK), Mabaya, Beck, Clayton (C), Koumetio, Majcetic, Balagizi, Clarkson (Chambers 84), Bearne, Norris, Frauendorf (Clarke 87).
Substitutes Not Used: Kelly (GK), Wilson, Cannonier.