AcademyU21s reaction: 'I couldn't have asked any more of them'
Barry Lewtas reflected on the positives after Liverpool U21s’ narrow defeat by Barrow in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy.
Despite a promising performance, the young Reds went down 2-1 at the SO Legal Stadium on Tuesday night, with Mateusz Musialowski’s brilliant opener overturned by two second-half strikes from the League Two side.
Liverpool can, however, still progress to the next stage of the competition if Blackpool, managed by former Reds coach Neil Critchley, beat Morecambe at Bloomfield Road on November 14.
And Lewtas said he was encouraged by what he saw from his young team at Barrow.
“I thought the lads did brilliantly,” the U21s head coach said post-match. “We were always going to have a spell where it would be tough. We’re playing against men and we are far from that at the moment, so I think the way we played in the first half was really good.
“And then in the second half the pitch got a bit harder, they came at us, which they had to do and the goal changed momentum a little bit.
“But I thought near the end of the game we were the team pushing again, so I was really pleased.”
Lewtas was particularly pleased by the contribution of Musialowski, who opened the scoring with a stunning 25-yard strike and has now netted in all three of the Reds’ matches in the competition this season.
“I’ve said before that his commitment, not just to his own game but the team, has been a massive change,” he said. “Not that he was doing anything particularly wrong, but he’s added more consistency.
“He’s played more games, he’s that little bit older. The goal was an unbelievable goal, but overall his all-round contribution in games is bigger now, rather than just moments. I thought he was good again today.”
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Lewtas was able to give Kaide Gordon his first competitive start in 21 months, with the 19-year-old winger featuring for just under an hour after being handed the captain’s armband.
Liverpool also fielded three 16-year-olds in their starting XI, with Amara Nallo, Carter Pinnington and Trey Nyoni all in the team, alongside second-year scholars Lewis Koumas and Josh Davidson.
“Nallo and Carter, I thought they were both fantastic today,” Lewtas said. “Then you’ve got Trey who is only just 16.
“I think we had five scholars start, if I’m not mistaken. So to say five of that team can play in the U18s on a Saturday, it really shows the levels which we hit today. I don’t think I could have asked any more of them.
“And I also think the nature of the group as well, where it stands, by not going under, we keep ourselves in with a chance if Blackpool beat Morecambe. So we wanted to try to get the equaliser, but we also didn’t want to concede any more goals.
“Now we have a chance, and Critch might do us a favour!”