Liverpool midfielder Kevin Stewart says going out of the FA Cup was tough was take, but admits he thrived upon being able to prove his worth at the top level.
The Reds lost to West Ham in agonising fashion on Tuesday evening, with Angelo Ogbonna’s late header in stoppage time of extra-time sending Jurgen Klopp’s side crashing out at the fourth round stage.
Despite this, there were many positives to take from the match, with Stewart’s mature, imposing performance in midfield certainly one of them.
The 22-year-old says he loved every minute of being able to show his qualities, although he couldn’t hide his disappointment at the result.
“It’s got some of the young players’ names out there, showed people what they can do. There are a lot of positives to take from the FA Cup,” he said.
“I’ve waited a very long time for [this], so it’s a bit of relief to finally show what I can do. Most of my career, the games I’ve played well in have been against younger players and players my age.
“It’s nice to prove to myself I can cope with the Premier League players and do well against them.
“It makes it much more competitive and I think I thrive in competitive situations. When a lot of players come back [to fitness], we need to fight more, and I think that’s why I’m going to improve.
“We’re just really disappointed. We could probably have won it today and in the first game, and to concede in the last 30 seconds, we’re just really gutted,” he added.
“There are a lot of positives, I think the attitude was really good. If we made mistakes, we won the ball back, we really good reaction, we made chances.
“The only thing was we didn’t put the chances away.”
Tiago Ilori, another youngster who shone at Upton Park, echoed Stewart’s sentiment, and rued Liverpool’s decision-making in key areas.
“There are always positives and I definitely think the way we played, the opportunities we made, the way we fought, they’re all positives,” he said.
“We didn’t get the result we think we deserved and the one we fought for, but that’s football.
“We worked hard, we managed to make some clear-cut chances and opportunities to score goals, but we didn’t make the right decisions at the right times.”
There was much negativity when the Reds’ starting eleven was announced, but the inexperienced young players really did themselves proud in east London.
The likes of Stewart and Ilori will feel that their first-team opportunities have been greatly enhanced in recent weeks, and regulars should be getting a little worried about their places in the team.
Klopp takes his side to Villa Park to face Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon, and it will be intriguing to see if the German sticks with some of his youngsters.
WEST HAM 2-1 LIVERPOOL
REACTIONS: “Brave performance”, “A bitter end”
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