U21s reactionBarry Lewtas on Benfica draw, a great weekend for McConnell and Gordon return

By Steve Hunter


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Barry Lewtas saluted the character of his side after a spirited display saw Liverpool U21s claim a 1-1 draw with Benfica in the Premier League International Cup on Sunday.

Despite a stunning opening goal from Filipe Cruz, the young Reds never gave up and deservedly levelled when James McConnell headed home following a Mateusz Musialowski corner.

It was a busy weekend for McConnell, who was on the bench alongside Calum Scanlon for the Merseyside derby at Anfield on Saturday, and the following day both players made a strong contribution at academy level.

Jarell Quansah and Luke Chambers also featured for the opening half against the Portuguese outfit, while Kaide Gordon made a lively comeback from the bench.

Read on as U21s head coach Lewtas chats with about Sunday’s draw and the many positives from the outing…

On his reflections on the overall display…

Listen, we were playing against Benfica’s second team who play second division football against senior opposition. For us, we had a mixed team, but I thought we did ever so well. We had some new relationships on the pitch to build but overall I thought we couldn’t have competed any more. Some parts of our play were excellent apart from we could have done a bit more in the final third, but overall I’m really pleased with them. We play Leeds United away next weekend in Premier League 2, so we are back to a rhythm of games and we look forward to that.

On Quansah and Chambers getting minutes…

Jarell and Chambo were really good in the 45 minutes they both had and then the boys that came on had to adapt because it was a very quick game. I thought everyone contributed really well. Jarell was excellent in that first half.

On a great weekend for McConnell…

Unbelievable! For James to be on the bench at Anfield in the Merseyside derby and then start for us, I thought he did ever so well and took his goal well. He is showing us lots of different things to his game this year, playing as a No.6, scoring headers. It just goes to show what he can do.

On the return of Gordon, who came off the bench in the second half…

That’s a big thing for us as well as Kaide. He has had a little bit of a niggle really, an ankle roll, a football injury, so he was itching to get back. He wanted to play 90 minutes but we’ve just got to be careful. I thought he looked strong, he was aggressive, and the more game time we can get him, the better.

On the assured display of 16-year-old Amara Nallo at centre-half…

Amara was excellent. Him and Carter Pinnington have been playing quite regularly for us so far together. Listen, he is just 16, and I don’t think we’ve ever asked a lad that young to play at centre-back against senior opposition. He should be really proud of his performance. I think the main thing for Amara is he played ever so well but he didn’t let any kind of mistakes or momentum shifts in the game affect him. So he didn’t play like a 16-year-old, that’s for sure.



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