Liverpool climbed out from one place off the bottom of Divsion One in the U21 Premier League, beating Reading on Sunday, a day when top-of-the table Sunderland were held at home by Chelsea.
The young Reds produced an impressive 2-0 win at home, despite the fact many academy players featured for the senior side in the FA Cup less than 24 hours earlier.
Liverpool took the lead courtesy of Brooks Lennon in the first half, before Harry Wilson netted from the penalty spot after the break to wrap up the points.
Chelsea's youngsters struggled to a goalless draw at Sunderland's Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground, a result that means the hosts failed to open a six-point gap at the top of Division One in the U21 Premier League.
It's bad news for Sunderland, who still lead Manchester United, but the Red Devils have games in hand. As for the young Blues, they remain mired in mid-table, despite some obvious talent.
Here are the final scores from Sunday's U21 fixtures:
|U21 Premier League: Sunday Results|
Here's what the table looks like after those results:
|U21 Division 1 Standings|
For a complete look at the standings, including the Division Two table, click here.
Here's the upcoming schedule:
|Next Division 1 Fixtures|
|Date||Time (GMT / ET)||Home||vs.||Away|
|Monday, Feb. 1||7 p.m. / 2 p.m.||Brighton & Hove Albion||vs.||Wolverhampton Wanderers|
|Monday, Feb. 1||7 p.m. / 2 p.m.||Derby County||vs.||West Ham United|
|Monday, Feb. 1||7 p.m. / 2p.m.||Everton||vs.||Manchester United|
Tricky winger Ryan Kent was included in Liverpool's refreshed squad, while Tiago Ilori featured in defence at the Lookers Vauxhall Stadium. With a strong spine still in place, the visitors bossed the early proceedings, passing the ball well in front of boss Michael Beale.
But for all their composed possession, Liverpool's fledglings still needed Ilori to be heroic at the back. He had to deny United States striker Andrija Novakovich more than once, including a splendid last-ditch tackle inside the final 20 minutes.
For the most part, though, the visitors stayed in control—particularly thanks to the composure of teenage midfield schemer Wilson. The 18-year-old Welsh playmaker was recalled from a disappointing loan spell with League 1 club Crewe Alexandra back in early December, per Andy Kelly of the Liverpool Echo.
But Wilson was sharp here, passing the ball with confidence and producing some skilled touches.
This win is a big boost to Liverpool's ailing season, but it represents huge disappointment for Reading. The junior Royals missed the chance to go third.
A goal-line clearance from Sunderland midfield man Liam Agnew denied Chelsea in the opening half. Jake Clarke-Salter had risen well to meet a corner, but Agnew's heroics left him frustrated.
The Blues' main threat came from 20-year-old playmaker Jordan Houghton. He manufactured several shooting chances, particularly during the early stages of the second half.
Sunderland included experienced forward Ola Toivonen in their ranks, and the 29-year-old showed some nice touches and decent movement, before being substituted for Andrew Nelson with less than 20 minutes remaining.
Most of the second-half action focused on a personal duel between Sunderland striker Mikael Mandron and Chelsea goalkeeper Bradley Collins. The latter was quick off his line several times to thwart the Mackems' young Frenchman.
Chelsea's official site felt the home side were being overly physical in midfield:
Chelsea FC @ChelseaFC
Greenwood is the third home player into the book for a cynical late foul. Aina is also carded for his reaction to the challenge. #CFCU212016-1-31 13:21:58
Collins continued to stand strong, while Black Cats stopper Max Stryjek also produced a couple of solid saves late on to keep the scores blank.
Chelsea will welcome taking a point from a tough venue. But Sunderland will rue the missed chance to create some real daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.