Liverpool loanee Tiago Ilori's midfield performance for Aston Villa's U21s earns positive review

The 22-year-old was praised by coach Gordon Cowans after playing Monday's night's 2-1 win over Brighton in a defensive midfield role.

Aston Villa Under-21 manager Gordon Cowans has praised Liverpool loanee Tiago Ilori for his impressive midfield display in Monday night’s 2-1 U21 Premier League Division Two victory over Brighton & Hove Albion.

Cowans was speaking to AVTV after seeing Libor Kozak earn his side three points with a stoppage-time penalty at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium, where Ilori played the full 90 minutes in a defensive midfield role.

The 22-year-old defender signed from Liverpool on deadline day on a season-long loan deal, with a view to a permanent move next summer, and is now expected to provide cover at centre-back for team captain Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Ciaran Clark and Jores Okore.

However, he is also capable of filling in at right-back or in midfield if needed, prompting Villa boss Tim Sherwood to compare him to Reds teammate Emre Can last week.

Sherwood happened to be watching the Brighton clash from the stands and, while it’s unclear whether it was he himself who wanted to see the Portugal Under-21 international further up the pitch, he will have left the ground impressed with what he witnessed from his latest signing.

“It’s apparently only the second time he’s played in that position,” said Cowans, who made 527 appearances in three separate spells at Villa. “The last time was in our friendly against Oxford [during the international break].

“He did very well then and tonight I thought he was very composed on the ball and calm. He uses the ball well and looks a good player.”

Born in London to an English father and Portuguese mother, Ilori joined Sporting Club de Portugal as a trainee in 2006 at the age of 13, before rising through the ranks to earn his first-team debut in November 2011.

The promising defender went on to make 14 total appearances for the Primeira Liga giants until sealing a £7 million switch to Liverpool in September 2013 but he is still to make his debut for the club, having spent the last two seasons out on loan at Spanish side Granada and French outfit Bordeaux.

He has remained a highly-regarded prospect on Merseyside, though, and plenty of supporters were none too pleased to hear that he could be leaving on a permanent basis next summer.

How much he will feature for Sherwood’s side this season remains to be seen but, thanks to impressive versatility, there is every chance he could get some decent playing time before long.

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