Liverpool academy coach Steven Gerrard has lavished praise on young winger Bobby Adekanye after the former Barcelona starlet scored twice in his side's 4-1 win over Maribor on Tuesday (17 October).

The Dutch youth international delivered an impressive display to help the young Reds take control of Group E in the UEFA Youth League, and Gerrard was delighted to see the 18-year-old show that he is capable of grafting defensively.

Gerrard also admitted that Adekanye and a handful of other Liverpool starlets would not have started against Maribor if the likes of Rhian Brewster were available, but the former LA Galaxy star is happy to have been posed with further selection problems by the talented teenagers.

"We said to Bobby and Rafa Camacho and the two young centre-backs (Anthony Driscoll-Glennon and Rhys Williams),who played either side of George (Johnston), 'Look there are players missing, it is an opportunity for you," Gerrard told the Liverpool Echo. "You either sink or swim.' That's what football is about.

"It is about when your opportunity comes along to move up. You come in and do yourself justice.

"I thought Bobby was excellent as was Rafa and the two young lads at centre-half so moving forward picking a team at under-19 level I've got big problems, but good problems."

Adekanye's brace may have drawn the attention, but Gerrard seemed happier to see the former Barcelona prodigy "put a shift in" defensively. The Liverpool legend believes the Nigerian-born attacker, who recently expressed his desire to one day return to Barcelona, is starting to show that he can be trusted by his coaches and has challenged the winger to keep working on the less glamorous side of his game.

"The thing with Bobby is consistency," Gerrard said. "I think he understands now what it is to play for a club like Liverpool at the highest level. Where you have to not just be talented on the ball and look good on the eye, you have to do the dirty side of the game as well.

"You have to compete, run back and tackle and carry out a job within a system, otherwise managers don't trust you. When I came in I saw Bobby doing only one side of the game, coming alive when he got the ball.

"Working with Mick Garrity, Critch (Neil Critchley) and Alex (Inglethorpe), who are working tirelessly with him, I can see the other side of the game coming in. I was more pleased with Bobby's performance out of possession without the ball because I thought he put in a shift in for the team.

"I know what he can do on the ball but can he become more of a complete footballer?"

Adekanye will continue to graft and listen to the likes of Gerrard at al, but the Liverpool hierarchy may not have been pleased to hear that he dreams of a return to the Camp Nou.

"I really need to play football and every minute I get to show myself. Hopefully, my dream comes true and that's playing in Liverpool's first team," Adekanye said. "Yes, Barcelona is my ultimate dream, that's right, and hopefully I will play there again in the future. But my dream for now is to get into Liverpool's first-team. The club has a lot of confidence in me, they see a big talent in me. They say: 'All you need to do is to keep fit and you can kick on here.'"

Bobby Adekanye
Adekanye caught the eye with a brace against Maribor. Getty