Analysis: Lucas and Sakho come through unscathed as Liverpool's under-21's win

Liverpool's under-21's beast West Ham United 2-0 this evening with two first team players returning to professional action.

Liverpool’s under-21 managed to get the better of a spirited West Ham United side with a 2-0 win, which saw regular first-teamers Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho returned to competitive action.

Sakho came off with 20 minutes off the game remaining whilst Lucas played the entire game.

Two goals from Jack Dunn – one a bizarre goal off his hip from a Chris Peterson shot and some horrible goalkeeping from West Ham’s Raphael Spiegel. The other was finishing off a move which saw a Peterson through ball latched onto by Cameron Brannagan before Dunn tapped home for a second.

The returns were welcome one’s as Liverpool are entering the final ten games of the season firmly in the title race with tough games against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Chelsea all due to face the Reds in the closing stages of the season.

Defender Sakho put in a very solid performance. Some have been eagerly awaiting the return of the French centre half, given that Liverpool have conceded 35 goals this season. Many have offered opinions along the lines that the Frenchman could be the answer to plug some of the leaks at the back.

Sakho was involved straight away after dealing with an awkward ball into the area which launched a Liverpool counter-attack. Though the French international is perhaps not as pleasing on the eye when on the ball compared to his main rival for a place in the first team, Daniel Agger, he looked very composed and didn’t look to complicate things. He did try the odd speculative long ball to catch out the Hammers defence and relished the physical and tight contest up against the West Ham frontline.

He put in two notable challenges to deny Elliot Lee a shot at goal shortly after the West Ham forward hit the woodwork and during a tough challenge with Sebastian Lletget. Though it appeared Sakho was in pain, Lletget was the one who was forced to make way, emphasising the physical presence the defender has – and perhaps that something that has been missing from the first team.

However, it was evident he was lacking match fitness when he put in a terrific last-ditch challenge in to deny a cross and he went down with cramp but was substituted with 20 minutes to go. He seemed fine and was replaced Rafael Paez.

Lucas Leiva had been pressed at times but looked to get forward but snatched a shot in the third minute after taking a ball from Joao Carlos Texeira. The Brazilian wasn’t afraid to get stuck into the challenges and looked sharp early on and at times he didn’t look afraid beyond the striker every now and then – though his role was predominantly sitting deep, he did rotate his position at times with the youngsters in the middle of the park.

He looked calm on the ball, was constantly talking to the younger players around him, as was Sakho at the back. The players seemed to respond to an experienced head in the middle of the park. He broke up the play well and ensured Liverpool kept their foot on the ball during key moments in the game.

Overall it was a very encouraging night for Liverpool with the return of two big players returning to the squad at an ideal part of the season. Both of them probably could do with some more minutes under their belt, but they came through unscathed.

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