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The kids are alright: Castro praises Perth Glory youngsters after Shanghai Shenhua draw in AFC Champions League


Doha: Perth Glory captain Diego Castro lauded the impressive development and maturity of the younger members of the A-League side following a rollercoaster 3-3 draw with China PR's Shanghai Shenhua on Monday.

Letting slip a two goal advantage to end up with a point might have most team captains reflect on a tie with disappointment, but Perth icon Castro was in an upbeat mood following the six-goal thriller in Group F.

The reason for the 38-year-old's positivity? The performance of the young tyros in the team, some of whom were not even born when the Spaniard was making his professional debut in his homeland.

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Perth's backline against Shenhua in particular was full of fresh faces with Jonathan Aspropotamitis the "veteran" at 24, alongside Luke Bodnar, who turned 20 this year, and two teenagers in Nicholas Walsh, 18, and the 16-year-old Josh Rawlins.

In midfield were Dane Ingham, 21, and 22-year-old Daniel Stynes, already a goalscorer in the 2020 AFC Champions League, while substitute Carlo Armiento (below), who scored Perth's second of the night with a well-taken free-kick, had his 21st birthday in June.

"The kids are improving so quickly, every game playing better with more confidence, we are really proud of them and their performances in the AFC Champions League so far," said Castro, who joined Glory back in 2015.

"We've been talking about the same message: for us we're still [effectively] in pre-season and we're trying to get into shape.

"We're a really young team; and we're still learning."

Although Perth were already eliminated from Round of 16 contention ahead of the tie with Shenhua, the Continental debutants put on arguably their best performance of the competition so far and successfully claimed their first-ever AFC Champions League point, following four consecutive defeats.

Nevertheless, there may be some regrets that it could not have been more after a pair of stunning set-pieces from Bruno Fornaroli and Armiento were undone by a Gio Moreno brace, before Yu Hanchao's strike then required a late Neil Kilkenny penalty to earn a share of the spoils.

Group F - MD5: Shanghai Shenhua FC 3-3 Perth Glory

"I think it was a tough game. You can’t be happy when you’re two up, especially the way that we played in the first half," admitted Castro, who focused on the impressive opening 45-minute spell.

"We controlled that first half, with and without the ball, which is quite challenging.

"I think perhaps in the final third we lacked a bit of composure, especially when we were two in front."

However, overall, Castro was pleased with the efforts shown by his teammatees, young and old alike, and is now looking forward to the team's final AFC Champions League tie against FC Tokyo on Thursday.

"It was a great game against Shenhua and at the end of the day we should be satisfied with our performance," he added.

"It was a good challenge for us today, playing in this beautiful scenario. I think we’re coming along very well. We just have to keep going."

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