Steven Gerrard praised the resilience of Hartlepool United’s youngsters after his Liverpool side progressed in the FA Youth Cup.
The former England international saw his Liverpool U18 side run out 5-1 victors at Victoria Park, but it was far from a routine victory.
While the Reds took the lead with two minutes on the clock they were quickly pegged back by Pools in a nervy opening for the Merseysiders.
The visitors did manage to pull away as the game progressed and, while Gerrard praised Pools’ quick fightback, he confessed he felt victory was never in doubt.
“I think in the opening stages they competed well and were rewarded for a good bit of play, so credit to Hartlepool for getting a goal against us,” he admitted.
“But I think our quality, fitness and skills levels in the end told.
“I thought Hartlepool were tired in the last 20 minutes and we ran them into the ground.
“We came out very comfortable in the end and I don’t think the result was ever in doubt.”
Gerrard’s side were unbeaten in their last 13 outings coming into the third round tie, but were met with a Hartlepool United side keen to utilise their strengths.
With reported former Liverpool target Connor Simpson acting as a focal point up top, Liverpool were met with a different and more direct challenge to some of their previous clashes.
And that new challenge for his backline was something that Gerrard appreciated, while he reserved special praise for the contribution of Simpson.
“It was different in terms of a team that’s very direct and trying to play balls into spaces behind us,” added Gerrard.
“We don’t come up against a player who’s six foot four every week, so that was a good challenge for my defenders.
“I thought he was a threat at times, he holds the ball up and did terrifically well for the goal.
“But I think overall we played the better football and we looked like we were going to win the game comfortably and we could have won it even more comfortably in the end.”