Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers thought some of his young players could take considerable credit from a less-than-vintage team performance in Tuesday’s dramatic Capital One Cup victory over Middlesbrough.
Sky Bet Championship side Boro held their Barclays Premier League opponents to a 1-1 draw over 90 minutes of the third-round encounter at Anfield, almost snatching victory when they hit the post in the 85th.
They then ensured it went to penalties by netting a second equaliser to make it 2-2 in the dying seconds of extra time.
An epic shoot-out, thought to be the longest in the competition’s history, followed, which Liverpool eventually won 14-13 as Albert Adomah fired the 30th attempt wide.
Rodgers admitted afterwards that his side had failed to create much in attack and were guilty once again of mistakes, but he insisted it was still a “real good night” for Liverpool – beaten in three out of five league games so far this season – as they returned to winning ways ahead of Saturday’s derby clash with Everton.
And there was particular praise for teenage debutants Jordan Rossiter and Jordan Williams, as well as 20-year-old Suso.
Local lad Rossiter opened the scoring with a cool finish early on before being replaced by Williams, and Suso notched Liverpool’s second.
And Rodgers said: “Young Jordan Rossiter at 17 years of age – I was delighted for him. He got the opportunity and showed wonderful composure for his finish.
“I was also impressed with Jordan Williams. And young Suso hasn’t had a lot of game time at all, but he has kept working and I thought he was really bright for us when he came on, and took his goal really well.”
He added: “My job is to grow the top-class young talents, not just buy them in. We want to grow them, or there is no point having our youth academy.
“Tonight is a great night for them (Rossiter and Williams) and a step towards them playing for the first-team regularly, hopefully.”
On the match overall, Rodgers said: “I was obviously pleased to get through, and that experience was great for our young players.
“It is good to win no matter how you do it. We played okay in the game and didn’t create a great deal, but showed good perseverance to keep going.
“As it is at the moment, we made too many mistakes and got punished for that. But the players showed great resilience and mentality to keep going and at the end, when it was needed, they showed wonderful composure.”
Boro boss Aitor Karanka was bursting with pride at promotion-chasing Boro’s efforts.
“These are the kind of games where you have to be very proud of your players, your group, your club, everything,” Karanka said.
“I think we have shown everybody what kind of club Middlesbrough are. I don’t have many words to explain my feelings right now.”