Neil Critchley said he was ‘incredibly proud’ after watching his youthful Liverpool side defeated 5-0 by Aston Villa in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup.

The Reds’ participation in the FIFA Club World Cup meant Critchley was in charge of the youngest team in the club’s history - the starting line-up, which featured five debutants, having an average age of just 19 years and 183 days - at Villa Park.

A hugely impressive start to the match could have seen the visitors take the lead, but strikes from Conor Hourihane and Ahmed Elmohamady saw the hosts go 2-0 up by the 18th minute.

It was four by half-time, thanks to Jonathan Kodjia’s double, as Premier League experience told, but Liverpool continued acquitting themselves admirably.

Only several excellent saves from Orjan Nyland prevented the Reds from getting a consolation goal in the second half, before Wesley added a fifth for Villa in stoppage time.

Read on for a transcript of Critchley’s post-match press conference…

On whether his overriding post-match emotion is pride…

One hundred per cent, yeah. I’m incredibly proud of that performance. I thought for large periods we were well in the game. I thought the start to the game was brilliant and I think we were actually the better team for the first 12 or 13 minutes and then obviously we concede from a wide free-kick which we could’ve done a little bit better with. And then the second one is a real cruel deflection and you find yourself 2-0 down scratching your head and thinking ‘I’m not sure how we are 2-0 down’. I don’t think we did too many things wrong in the game. At half-time we spoke about the things that would be important to us in the second half and I thought we came out and gave a really good account of ourselves in the second half as well. The ‘keeper’s pulled off some decent saves and I thought for large periods of the game we had quite a lot of the possession. I know they managed the game a bit in the second half, as senior players would do, but we went right to the end. We played like a Liverpool team and I think the supporters really appreciated the players’ efforts tonight.

On Dean Smith and John Terry visiting the away dressing room after the match…

That was a special moment. I thought the conduct of the Aston Villa players to our players all night was first class and for Dean Smith and John Terry to come in our dressing room and say such complimentary words was a special moment for our group of players and that will live with us for a long, long time. That was top, top class I thought.

On whether this young team should have had to play the tie…

We haven’t chosen, that’s what’s been decided by the club, that this is the best solution for the club - and try telling those players in that dressing room tonight that it was a bad thing for them. You can’t swap that experience for anything, that was a special evening for them and we are the beneficiaries of the success of the first team. We’re jumping on the back of the rollercoaster a little bit, but that’s what’s been decided. We’re here and I don’t think we could have done too much more tonight. 

On Harvey Elliott’s performance and how close he is to playing regular first-team football…

He’s not too far away because he trains with our first team on a regular basis. He’s had first-team exposure already, the manager and staff think a lot of him. I thought he was a constant threat all night tonight, a really good outlet for us. But he was reliant on a lot of the players getting the ball to him and I thought the service to him was top class as well. I wouldn’t want to single anyone out because I thought as a collective tonight, the whole group of players, the subs included, couldn’t have done any more. I thought we played like a Liverpool team and that was really, really important to us. We spoke about what we could control before the game, what was important to us. Good, bad or indifferent, we never quit. I don’t think you can accuse any of the Liverpool players tonight of putting their heads down or being downhearted, they stuck at it right to the end. 

On Caoimhin Kelleher’s display…

He showed what a top-class goalkeeper he is and what he could be in the future. I thought he pulled off some magnificent saves in the second half. We ran out of steam a little bit, as you could see. Young players, some of them started to cramp and we didn’t control those moments well enough but that’s the inexperience of young players. You could see Aston Villa’s players start to control the game and it’s very difficult when you’re 4-0 down. Our young players are running all over the pitch and desperate to make an impression and senior players, with that cool head, can just pick you off and they started to do that a little bit. But I’ve got to be honest, I thought 5-0 was quite a harsh scoreline on us. 

On the experience of representing Liverpool at senior level…

We don’t want the night to end - even speaking to you guys now is a great experience so I’ll stay here all night if you want and we’ll have a chat! If you want me to talk about those players in there then I’ll be here all night. I was incredibly proud of how our players played the game and how we approached the game - our pressing, our counter-pressing. I was part of it and I was with them on the touchline. The staff were part of it and I’m just fortunate to share something special with that group of players and the staff tonight. I’ve got to say, the support that we had: it’s Christmas, they’re well aware of the team that was going to be on that pitch tonight, and they came in their thousands and they stayed right until the end and clapped those young players off the pitch. It shows what a special football club this is. 

On whether he has received any messages from Jürgen Klopp in Qatar…

Yeah, we had some information at half-time from the manager - basically to keep playing the way we were playing, keep being brave, keep doing what we were doing. So he was out there watching with the staff and the players and I hope, and I’m sure he will be, he is proud of the way we played tonight. 

On whether Ki-Jana Hoever’s substitution was down to cramp...

Yeah, it was just cramp. No issues, just cramp. He’s never suffered with it before so he didn’t know what was going on, but he’s fine, no problems.

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