AcademyU21s reaction: Fulham win, Nat Phillips inspiration and Tom Hill return

Published 7th November 2022
By Steve Hunter

Liverpool U21s head coach Barry Lewtas praised the consistency of his players after they beat Fulham 3-1 on Sunday to go 10 games unbeaten in Premier League 2.

Melkamu Frauendorf and Jarell Quansah netted to put the young Reds 2-0 up and though the visitors pulled a goal back, Layton Stewart marked his return from injury with a seventh strike of the season and sealed the win.

Attacking midfielder Tom Hill also made his comeback in the contest, having been sidelined since featuring for the senior team in Asia during pre-season.

The U21s' Premier League 2 schedule is now paused until January, but they end their 2022 programme on Wednesday night at the Academy by hosting Dinamo Zagreb in the group stage of the Premier League International Cup (kick-off 7pm GMT).

Read on as Lewtas speaks to Liverpoolfc.com about the form of his team, the return to fitness of some key performers, the weekend involvement of Nathaniel Phillips and more…

On the 3-1 win over Fulham…

It was another really good performance. I thought last weekend against West Ham United was one of the best performances from us this season. We knew we would have to be at it against a good Fulham team who have won a lot of games so far. We knew we would have to be at our best and I thought we were very good again. From a Premier League 2 point of view this was our last game of 2022 so we will be ready to go again in January.

On Phillips getting 45 minutes…

Nat is a great lad. I'm not just saying this but every time a senior player has come down to play for us since I've took this job they have always done it properly. That's credit to them but it's also credit to the first-team environment. Nat is a real good guy who is good around the lads. The lads look up to him and he is a really good example to the younger players.

On Stewart returning from injury with a goal…

Layton returned doing what he does best, scoring goals. He was unfortunate to pick up an ankle injury against Accrington Stanley so it was good to get him back out there. Mateusz Musialowski has missed a few games with a bit of a back issue so it was good to get him back as well.

On the return of Hill after a long injury lay-off…

Tom has had a bit of an issue since pre-season so it's nice to get these boys back. Tom has had really bad luck, without a shadow of a doubt. Tom is a young boy who is an unbelievable professional in the way he approaches things. He has just had bad luck. We all hope that is behind him now and we will integrate him back into the team and back into the squad, full training. It was really nice to give him a runout. We put Tom on at a real important time of the game and that's because we know what kind of player he is and his personality. He made a really important impact for us.

On going 10 games unbeaten in Premier League 2 since the opening-day loss to Manchester City…

You look at the games, you look back at the level of the competition, and you see how close this league is with teams beating each other. I think we have showed a real level of consistency in performance, which has been really pleasing. We have been mean at times at the back, we can score goals, and it has been a really good first half of the season from us.

We always say the second half of the season can look different because there might be boys going out on loan etc, so we always split this season in two and reflect on it, see where the players are and what the next challenge is.

Let's see where that goes but if you were to look from the start of our season up to now, then the players can be really proud of their level of performance. A lot of these lads have played for us in the UEFA Youth League as well and to top that group and get five wins out of six, overall they have been first-class.

On Wednesday night's meeting with Dinamo Zagreb in the Premier League International Cup…

It's another good test for the boys. Obviously it's a competition that was stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I remember when Critch [Neil Critchley] took the group in the tournament. We had some really good teams coming to the Academy, high-level opposition and high-level games.

It's another opportunity for our young boys to sample European football. I remember when we went over to Zagreb in the UEFA Youth League and lost to them on penalties.

I know what kind of level of competition we will face. Dinamo Zagreb has a reputation for producing a lot of players so we know we will be in for a real challenge, but it's also something that we are really excited for.

Published 7th November 2022