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Youngsters can LEARN.


ANDREW POWELL TWO red cards, four goals conceded and a chastening cup exit.

If Liverpool's senior side thought they'd had a tough evening at Chelsea on Tuesday, it was nothing compared to the experience suffered by their youngsters in the UEFA Youth League.

The Reds were thumped 4-1 in their round of 16 tie at Benfica in Portugal to crash out at the same stage of the competition as last season.

It was a disappointing end to a European campaign that offered plenty of encouragement for the future and helped deliver on the ultimate aim of the Academy - preparing players for the first team.

Indeed, both Curtis Jones and Neco Williams, stellar performers in the group stages of the UEFA Youth League, were on first-team duty at Stamford Bridge rather than turn out at the Caixa Futebol Campus in Seixal.

Both were missed, with the likes of Harvey Elliott, Ki-Jana Hoever and Sepp van den Berg unable to avoid defeat against a Benfica team inspired by skipper Tiago Dantas.

Coach Barry Lewtas, though, regards the absences as a positive.

"We had two boys eligible to play in the game who were playing in the first team instead, so how fantastic is that?" he said. "That's where we want to be.

"We were up against an experienced team, giving away some experience and a massive amount of age.

"That's not an excuse, it's not a reason we lost but the boys deserve a lot of credit as when you saw some of their direct opponents they were giving away almost two years and I don't think that showed in the game.

"We said to the boys that the further up you go the more you'll get punished for mistakes and we saw that. You can't make those technical errors because good teams will punish you."

Liverpool were 3-0 down inside half an hour and, although Tyler Morton pulled a goal back, could have been further behind by the break but for a penalty save from Vitezslav Jaros.

But a fourth Benfica goal put the hosts in control before Van den Berg was sent off for fouling Dantas and, in injury time, Leighton Clarkson saw red for kicking out at Rafael Brito having had his shirt pulled by the player.

"There's plenty to learn from, a lot of boys have got experience of it and I'm sure they'll be all the better for that," said Lewtas, speaking to "The more opportunity and experience we can give to players the better they'll become.

"Obviously we're a little bit sore we've gone out and maybe that's a little bit harder because we were the masters of our own downfall with some mistakes, but the honesty from the players was fantastic throughout."

Liverpool under-18s are next in action on Saturday week at home to Everton with goal difference separating the secondplaced Reds from their neighbours in the U18 Premier League table.


Harvey Elliott was involved in the Youth League defeat on Tuesday afternoon

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUPR
Date:Mar 5, 2020
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