Birmingham City’s under-18s have a mountain to climb in their FA Youth Cup semi-final tie as they were beaten by a slick Liverpool side in the first leg at St Andrew’s last night.

Despite a spirited second-half performance, Terry Westley’s side struggled to cope with the visitors’ technical superiority and athleticism throughout.

All three of Liverpool’s goals arrived in a one-sided first-half and had it not been for a series of impressive second-half saves from Dean Lyness, then the Reds, and more notably striker Lauri Dalla Valle, could have had more.

Finn Dalla Valle, a former Inter Milan trainee, looked a class act and should have had a hat-trick to join David Amoo’s solo effort.

After a minute’s silence to mark the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough, Liverpool took the lead in the 11th minute. After Dan Preston bravely blocked Amoo’s effort, the ball ran to Dalla Valle who slotted home from close range.

Londoner Amoo then comfortably doubled the advantage in the 24th minute. The right winger sliced through the left side of Birmingham’s defence like knife through butter. The game was effectively over four minues later and it came courtesy of a fumble on the edge of the area from Lyness. Dalla Valle was handed possession far too easily to tap into an empty net.

The hosts were better after the break but their only real goal attempt arrived in the 55th minute when centre-half Dan Preston had his volley cleared off the line by Steven Irwin.

Birmingham will now head to Anfield next Friday.