Academy. Dawson praises UEFA Youth League performance

13 Dec 23

After rounding off their 2023/24 UEFA Youth League campaign with a 3-1 win against their AC Milan counterparts, Ben Dawson expressed his delight with the performance of Newcastle United's under-19 side.

Despite trailing inside eight minutes of their Group F encounter, following Mattia Liberali’s opener, Newcastle completed a valiant second-half fightback, with strikes from Travis Hernes and Cathal Heffernan propelling the hosts in front at Whitley Park.

Ben Parkinson’s close-range tap-in doubled Newcastle’s lead before the Toon teenagers saw out the contest to record back-to-back UEFA Youth League victories following a 2-1 away win at Paris Saint-Germain last month, avenging their 4-0 loss against the Italian outfit in their opening fixture back three months prior.

“I thought the performance was really good,” Dawson told "The outcome is nice but the performance was really pleasing and showed how much we’ve progressed and improved over the course of the games since we last played Milan in September.

“I don’t think there was a lot in the game during the first-half, with Adrian (Janusz) having too much to do at the far side. There were a couple of incidents where their good play broke our press but we covered and got bodies back in, managing to defend it well.

“We just needed to take a little bit more care with our opportunities in the final third. The goals came from set-plays which we’ve been really close with in the last month or two and not took advantage of those situations. Today, we did and it got us back into the game and when it opened up, we scored a really good third goal to kill the game off."

After a lack of clear-cut goalscoring chances in the opening 45 minutes for United’s youngsters, Dawson praised his side’s ruthlessness in front of goal as well as their positive defensive display towards the end of the clash.

He added: “It was something we’d spoke about yesterday and in the meeting before today’s game that if we get our press and build up right, we’d get opportunities.

"It’s about being clinical and taking those opportunities, especially against top teams because you know if you don’t, they’re likely to go down the other end and create something.

“Even at 3-1, we had tired legs and Milan were playing, making a few changes and moving the ball quickly whilst getting into dangerous areas but I thought the lads dug in and defended really well."

After losing their opening three fixtures in the club’s maiden UEFA Youth League campaign, the young Magpies recorded two victories as well as a courageous 2-2 draw away at Borussia Dortmund, recovering from a two-goal deficit at half-time.

Unable to progress into the knockout stages of the competition following a third-placed finish, three points adrift of their Dortmund counterparts, Dawson is hopeful his young squad can build on their positive conclusion to their respective group.

He said: “You look back to the first three games of the group which gave us a lot to do. There’s a lot of ifs, buts and maybes but I think the one thing we can focus on and be really pleased with is how much the team has progressed and improved over the course of the games.

“Although we don’t progress in the competition and the lads go back to under-18s and under-21s football, it’s important they don’t think that the big games are over with, whether they are playing at under-18 level, under-21 level or on the bench for the first team, and they then let their standards drop.

“I think the lads are in a really good place and they’ve now got to make sure that’s the minimum standard in day-to-day training or whichever programme they’ll be playing in."

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