U21 manager lauds performance after Liverpool winWith three games played in the new Under-21 Premier League season, Reading sit atop the table following a 2-1 win against Liverpool at Madejski Stadium on Monday evening.
U21 manager Martin Kuhl has been pleased with the quality and spirit that the Royals youngsters are showing early in the new campaign, following their promotion to the top tier at the end of last season.
“There are a lot of big clubs that spend a lot of money on bringing in professional players – we haven’t got those resources, but we try to do the best we can and we have got some very good players,” Kuhl said after the match.
“The Academy is very strong at the moment and across the age groups we seem to be getting into tournaments and finals, which is a credit to the coaches.
“But the players have to take credit because they can play and deal with it, and their mentality is good. They proved it against Liverpool tonight.”
Reading were good value for their 2-0 lead at the break, after Andrija Novakovich and Rowan Liburd had each found the net. The Reds put pressure on after the break – eventually forcing an own-goal with two minutes remaining – but Kuhl was pleased that the boys were able to show their gutsiness to hang on to win.
“For 60 minutes we did well, and then maybe because of me changing it or a change in the players’ mentality, we had to hang in for the last 30 minutes,” he continued. “We knew Liverpool were going to give it a go – I’m pleased with our mentality, but we’re disappointed on the tactical and technical side in the last half an hour.
“We had chances to kill it off and make it 3-0. We knew Liverpool would get as us and that they’ve got quality – but as I told the lads, we’ve got quality as well. In the last 30 minutes we didn’t expose that and we were on the back foot too often.
“But I’m really pleased because the character was good and they more than matched the opposition. Overall I’m pleased because they played some good football and tried to take the game to Liverpool, and then showed our steel to stay in the game and get a result.”
Liburd’s goal – poking in from inside the six-yard box, after Aaron Kuhl’s corner wasn’t cleared – was his third goal in three games since his summer arrival from Billericay Town. The U21 boss is pleased with the promising signs that he has seen from the new striker since his addition to the development squad.
Kuhl continued: “Rowan has got credentials, and it’s about trying to fine-tune him without taking away the reasons that he was brought here, which were his pace and goalscoring ability. He has two assets which are massive for a striker, so we’re trying to fine-tune him.
“He’ll have to keep impressing the gaffer for him to one day get a chance to be involved in a first team game where he’ll come up against a different calibre of defender – and that’s with no disrespect to defenders in this under-21 league! He had one run against Michael Hector in training yesterday and he came out second best! So he’ll have to learn some tricks of the trade. But it’s good for him to be involved in this league and he’s still developing. So far he has done really well.”