EDS & Academy

Smith's honest assessment of UEFA Youth League win

BATTLER: Matt Smith makes a tackle against Liverpool.
Matt Smith hailed the ‘massive achievement’ of reaching the UEFA Youth League semi-finals despite declaring that Manchester City were well below their best to beat Liverpool in the last eight.

The young Blues became the first the first cohort of players in the Club’s history to reach the last four of the competition, but needed penalties to overcome the Reds after a 1-1 draw at the Academy Stadium.

Having set up a tie with Barcelona, Smith was understandably delighted to progress, but was unashamedly honest in his assessment of the game.

READ: City 1-1 Liverpool - Match report

READ: Davies targets improvements after last eight win

“That performance wasn’t up to our standards, but to get to the semi-final is a massive achievement,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to be there and we’ve got a big game against Barcelona now, so we’ll need to be a lot better.

“In the first 20 minutes we weren’t at the races. We knew they’d press high and get in our face and when a team does that it’s hard to deal with, but that’s no excuse.

“If we’d been better on the ball we would have been alright, but sometimes we were panicked into doing things.

“We controlled the game a lot better in the second half, though we were still nowhere near as good as we have been this season but that said, we’ve still made the semi-final.”

It’s one of football’s most popular clichés, the sign of good team being one that wins despite not being at their best and that certainly seemed be the case at the Academy Stadium.

City started as slow as Liverpool did quickly and failed to enjoy a sustained spell of pressure until the second half, when, with Luke Bolton in particular carrying a threat, the young Blues started to find a rhythm and cause the visitors problems.

Smith, a Welsh U21, took heart from the way in which City improved and is looking forward to seeing what what he and his team-mates can do if they’re at their best against the products of Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy in the semi-final.

“We didn’t play well but we still won and even though it was on penalties we still had the better chances in the game,” added the 18-year-old midfielder.

“We didn’t play anywhere near the level we can so that gives us something to look forward to when we do.

“We know Barcelona are a strong team but I’m confident that if we play well and improve from this performance and take what we've learned we can give them a good game.

“When you join this Club you want to be playing in games like that so we’ve just got to take it all in our stride and be confident."

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