Steven Gerrard declared himself 'proud and happy' after his first Merseyside derby as a manager ended in a 3-1 win for Liverpool U18s over Everton at the Academy on Friday night.
The Reds had to come from behind in testing conditions in Kirkby to secure success as Anthony Gordon put the visitors into the lead just before half-time.
Nevertheless, Gerrard’s side regrouped during the interval and turned in an excellent second-half performance to clinch the three points thanks to a Curtis Jones double and a strike from Rafael Camacho.
“I’m very proud and very happy,” the boss told Liverpoolfc.com afterwards. “The lads were superb. I feel like that performance has been coming; in all the other games we’ve played we’ve been fantastic with the ball, we just need to cut mistakes and individual errors out of the games.
“I think if you take their goal out of the game, it was the perfect performance, so we’ll look at the minor details and how they got in and scored, but I felt it was against the run of play and we’ve totally dominated the game.”
Liverpool’s players were unfortunate to find themselves trailing at the interval having dominated possession for long periods of the first half.
Gerrard explained how he urged the Reds to retain that sense of perspective going into the second period and not to panic about the scoreline.
He said: “I told them to remain calm. We tweaked a little thing in the middle of midfield because we needed to make sure we looked after their No.10, he was getting a little bit too much space in the first half, so we went to single pivot with one No.6 and two No.8s who matched their No.6 and No.8.
“I told them to do more of the same and to believe in themselves – I didn’t want any of them to be in the dressing room at half-time and feel like there was a panic on or the result was in doubt.
“I knew if we kept doing the right things the breakthrough would come because we had chances in the first half and most of the ball. For me, it only looked like one side was going to win the game.”
Gerrard’s words proved correct when Jones struck twice in three minutes to turn the scoreline on its head midway through the second half.
First, the 16-year-old shimmied his way into a shooting position inside a crowded area before steering home, and then he grabbed a second when he expertly converted with a half-volley at a corner.
“That’s what we’re dealing with, that’s the kind of quality and talent we’re dealing with,” Gerrard reflected. “The important thing is we try and stay calm around him. He is a top player; he and Rafa [Camacho] tonight caused Everton all kinds of problems.
“It’s a big year for Curtis and it’s important he stays healthy, stays fit and keeps churning out games, making sure he is available. We’ve been working at trying to get numbers into his game and he deserves all the praise he gets from tonight’s performance for sure.
“He has got that ability where he can create something out of nothing. That was the reason myself and the staff were so calm at half-time.
“I asked them to defend perfectly in the second half, they did that, and then I knew the quality would shine through.”
LFCTV GO: Watch highlights of the 3-1 win
There are few better placed to describe the feeling of a Merseyside derby victory than Gerrard – and the boss revealed he’s advised his players to savour the emotion of overcoming Everton.
“They’ve got to enjoy this occasion and they’ve got to try and bottle this feeling,” he said. “The important thing is what you’ve got to put in and how much hard work and togetherness you’ve got to show to get a result like that.
“That doesn’t just happen – it’s what you put in on the training ground, it’s what you put in tonight in the first and second halves, then you get your reward at the end of the game.”