MELBOURNE Victory coach Ange Postecoglou has backed Connor Pain to step into Marco Rojas's shoes after a top-notch performance against Liverpool last night.
Pain was Melbourne's most dangerous attacker in their 2-0 loss to Liverpool at the MCG, beating England international Glen Johnson on a number of occasions and forcing goalkeeper Brad Jones into a fine save around the hour mark.
The 19-year-old left-winger earned praise from Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers after the game, while Postecoglou said Pain, who received his first Socceroos call-up earlier this month, could be a regular starter this season.
With New Zealand winger Marco Rojas signing for Stuttgart at the end of last season, Melbourne need to fill a hole on the left wing and Postecoglou believes Pain could be just as good as the Kiwi.
"Why not? I mean, 12 months ago Marco hadn't scored a goal in the A-League (for Melbourne Victory), you know, and went on to score 15 because we invested time and our structure suited him," Postecoglou said.
"And it will be the same with Connor, (Andrew) Nabbout and all these guys, we've got in those positions.
"We'll still want to bring the best players to our football club, there's no doubt about that, and we'll still make some key signings but we're never going to stifle our youth either, if they're coming through they'll play, simple as that."
Pain, along with Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe, flew in to Melbourne to play Liverpool having been released from the Socceroos' camp at the East Asian Cup in South Korea on Sunday.
And the Hong Kong-born teenager, who was playing in the Victorian Premier League this time last year with Bentleigh Greens, made the most of the opportunity.
Pain created Victory's first half-chance of the match when he worked his way past Johnson and then cut the ball back just out of reach of a team-mate, which would have given Liverpool something to worry about.
It was just the start for Pain whose performance was good enough to see Rodgers approach the teenager after the match to give the Victory attacker a pat on the back.
"The young boy Pain makes some terrific runs from outside to in," Rodgers said. "You know, he's clever, he's bright.
"He hit a great shot that moved a bit and Brad Jones made a really good save."
While Pain conceded 'it's nice when people say nice things about you', he argued every one of the Victory players involved would take something from the experience.
"I think we can take something from it, definitely, but obviously they're in their pre-season, they're not to the standards that Brendan Rodgers wants them to be," Pain said.
"But I think, just the fact that we did do quite well, we definitely will take on into the season."
(c) Sportal Australia
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