Neil Critchley reserved special praise for Elijah Dixon-Bonner after the 18-year-old midfielder netted twice for Liverpool U23s during the 3-2 win over Wigan Athletic in the Premier League Cup on Sunday.

With Curtis Jones given a rest on the bench ahead of international duty with England U19s, the former Arsenal youngster was handed the captain’s armband.

After the game Critchley revealed Dixon-Bonner had been doing extra work in training on his finishing in the build-up to Sunday.

Dixon-Bonner slotted two superb goals and 16-year-old Tom Hill was also on the mark in his debut at U23 level.

Critchley was also able to call upon the likes of Harvey Elliott and Caoimhin Kelleher, who were both on the first-team bench 24 hours earlier.

Read on for Critchley’s thoughts on a lively encounter at the Kirkby Academy…

On a hard-fought victory…

We made hard work of it in the end. I thought some of our football in the first half was outstanding. We scored three good goals and created a number of other opportunities as well. We started off well in the second half and we knew the next goal in the game would be vital. We had a couple of opportunities to make it 4-1 and didn’t, and when they got their second goal the momentum was with them. They threw a lot of men forward and we didn’t always cope with the physical side of the game well enough and we didn’t finish the game off at the other end of the field, which we could have done. I wouldn’t say we were left hanging on but you know with the bodies they had in the box the ball only needs to drop to someone once. That doesn’t take away some of the real positives we had in our performance, but I think we could have battled better as a team and saw the game out better when we needed to.

On captain for the day Dixon-Bonner netting twice…

Two really good goals. He had a couple of opportunities at Arsenal last weekend from similar positions where he scored his second goal today. If you ever wanted to show the benefits of practice then Elijah spent five or 10 minutes at the end of training on Saturday practising those type of finishes from those positions. His second goal was a really good finish and he got in well for the first goal. I was really delighted with his contribution and if he can add more goals to his game on a regular basis then people will start to take more notice of him I think. He is showing the willingness to keep getting in the box. He’s played a lot of games for us this season and he has maybe looked slightly jaded in some of the games towards the second half, which is understandable. It’s also a good thing for him to go through that and keep him on the pitch because he needs to find a way of still contributing while he’s tired and he needs to make sure he understands how to play the game when he’s not always 100 per cent. I was really pleased with him today.

On Wigan proving a real handful in the second half…

It’s a cup competition and at 3-2 they had nothing to lose. They overloaded the backline and played forward quickly and we found it difficult to deal with. We didn’t handle those situations well enough or manage the game well enough. It is something we have spoken about after the game because we didn’t do the ugly side of the game enough. These boys now at this age need to know those parts of the game are really valued by managers. If you are going to have a career in football you have to do that side of the game. That’s valued just as much as your technical quality and intelligence on the ball, and we don’t do those well enough all of the time.

On the display of 16-year-old Elliott…

Harvey showed his real ability in the first half I thought. He had some lovely moments, he has a lovely touch, he has receiving skills under pressure, he has awareness and his decision-making is so good for someone so young. What I love about him is just his appetite and his enthusiasm to play football. He was desperate to play in this game even though he was on the first team bench the day before. He loves playing the game and you can see that with the way he plays, he is infectious. We have been really impressed with him as a person as well as a footballer since he has been here and so have the first-team staff - and that’s why they included him against Leicester.

On the international break and Melwood training opportunities for the young players…

That tends to be the way. Some of our boys will now go off [on international duty] and some of them didn’t play today with the games they have got coming up, so it was a bit of a changed team today. It was a great opportunity for some of the other boys to play. Those boys away on international duty will hopefully have a good time and come back injury-free and our boys will get the chance to train at Melwood with some of the other players. That is a great experience for us to look forward to as well.

On a great weekend for the club with a hat-trick of wins for the first team, U23s and the U18s…

It’s nice to win games. The first team is the most important result and that was a fantastic win. With the U18s and U23s, it’s always nice to win games but it’s more important that the boys are developing and playing well, and the performances are there. I think Barry [Lewtas] and myself would say that for large periods of both games we have had that over the weekend.

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Liverpool U23s v Wigan Athletic

Match report: LFC U23s beat Wigan in Premier League Cup