Ben Doak has made quite an impression since joining Liverpool from Celtic in the summer and he scored against Napoli.
Napoli may have offered nothing but misery to Jurgen Klopp and his players but it was a different story for Liverpool’s next generation in midweek.
And having already caught the eye in Scotland and England, one youngster in particular made a notable first statement in European competition.
Ben Doak, the 16-year-old summer signing from Celtic, was the standout as a Reds under-19s side earned an impressive 2-1 win against Napoli at a baking Stadio Giuseppe Piccolo on Wednesday afternoon.
Doak – who appeared twice in the Scottish Premiership last season – scored the opener and then created the winner for Oakley Cannonier, with his efforts recognised by a first call-up to the Scotland U21 squad on Thursday.
And Liverpool U21s boss Barry Lewtas – taking charge of the UEFA Youth League campaign this season – was impressed with his first real experience of working with the player, who has hit the ground running for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s U18s this season.
“Sometimes you can watch a player in the flesh a number of times, but it’s very much different when you are working with them as well,” says Lewtas, speaking to the ECHO. “You get to learn their personality, to see what they offer the team, and I was really impressed. Ben linked the game up well.
“Ben is a real direct runner with the ball. You wouldn’t want to defend against him. You can see he has been around senior players, he’s tough and robust in certain moments, he can take contact. He’s had more experience but there’s still a lot he can improve.”
Lewtas was encouraged by Liverpool’s potent front line in Italy. “I’ve been impressed with Trent Kone-Doherty in the under-18s games with his trickery and ability to change direction,” he says. “I know the coaching staff are working hard developing that part of his game.
“And then there’s Oakley Cannonier who always has a goal in him, he picks up nice positions and created some nice pockets for the others as well. They have a little bit of everything.”
Liverpool dominated the first half and, having conceded a penalty after the break, fought back to earn their first victory at Napoli after two previous fiercely-contested draws. There were good performances throughout the team, with Melkamu Frauendorf – one of several starters with previous UEFA Youth League experience – revelling in a central midfield role.
“He gives us something different in the middle,” says Lewtas. “In the midfield we had Dom Corness who can control the game with his passing, James McConnell links the game really well between the lines and when we were at our best around their box, James seemed to be having a lot of touches of the ball.
“And Mel gives you running and energy. I know he has played a lot off the wing, but as a team I thought we had a lovely balance because there were different skills in the midfield and attack. And the backline was superb.”
Of the game, Lewtas adds: “In the first half I thought we were brilliant and controlled the game. I said to the lads, I didn’t think Napoli were a bad team in the first half, just that we were really good.
“Obviously in these games you don’t get your own way for 90 minutes, they got a bit of momentum in the second half and it was tough. They had the tails up and I wondered how we were going to react, and we reacted superbly.
“We got back control of the game we defended tough, kept the line high and the winning goal came off the back of a good passage of play. We showed great character to get the win.”