Nestory Irankunda’s history-making performance leads to Socceroos comment

Catch the highlights as Adelaide United hosted Western United in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Adelaide United head coach Carl Veart heaped praise on hat-trick hero and teenage sensation Nestory Irankunda and there was one moment that stood out from his post-match news conference.

Bayern Munich-bound Irankunda made history at Coopers Stadium on Friday night, becoming the youngest player to score a hat-trick in Isuzu UTE A-League history – aged 18 years and 49 days – as Adelaide defeated Western United 4-1.

The 18-year-old broke the deadlock in the first half before completing his history-making treble in the second half, eclipsing former Reds forward Nathan Burns (18 years, 259 days) as the youngest player to score three goals in an Isuzu UTE A-League game.

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Irankunda will leave Adelaide for German powerhouse Bayern at the end of the season, while the teenager has previously been called into Socceroos camp by Graham Arnold though he remains uncapped.

Speaking to reporters post-match, Veart – who could not hide his pride throughout the 15-minute media conference – said: “I’ve worked with a lot of young players and I’ve never worked with anyone who has what he has.

“We saw what he did tonight and hopefully we can see him doing that for Australia as well.”

Veart started his press conference by saying: “I’m glad for him to get the reward for the work’s been doing the last couple of months. It’s been a challenging year for him. A lot of expectations from the media and fans put on him.

“I think we’re starting to see the maturity coming through. Tonight his performance was very good. It has been good the last three-four weeks.

“I’m happy for him and I think it shows to him that if he keeps working and if he keeps his head in the right place that he will put these performances in.”

Irankunda doubled his season tally in one night, taking his 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League total to six goals in 20 appearances – 13 of those starts.

He has now scored four goals in three games, while reaching a career high for goals scored, surpassing the five he managed in 2022-23.

Veart added: “It’s difficult for young players to get that consistency. They’re still finding out what’s working for them.

“We’ve tried to protect him a lot and try not to put pressure on him because he puts a lot of pressure on himself, he has big expectations for himself. It’s important for him to enjoy his football, relax, make mistakes and learn.

“I try not to give him too much responsibilities on the pitch. We try to find sides for him to do what he did tonight. I’m just very happy for him. Happy for the rest of the playing group as well.”

Veart, whose side celebrated back-to-back wins, continued: “A lot of people think all he is is power and speed, but they don’t actually see or work with him everyday. He is technically very, very good and his understanding of the game is at a high level.

“He knows when to slow things down and go fast. It takes time for these young players. We can’t expect them to give us an 8/9 out of 10 every week. There’s going to be weeks we’re they’re fours and fives. It’s important we keep him going because he is a very rare talent.

“His power is frightening at times. He is so quick and strong. He is starting to mature a bit more and settle down.

“Sometimes it comes together and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes he isn’t selfish enough and sometimes he is a bit too selfish. We just have to keep working with him.”

Veart also discussed the mental side of Irankunda’s game, saying: “We’ve done a lot of work with him, getting him to understand that there’s a lot of people in Australia that want him to fail and make it tough for him.

“Some of the things he’s had to go through on the pitch, other players wouldn’t be able to cope with. We’re expecting an 18-year-old kid to have the maturity of a seasoned professional.

“Most teams try to be quite physical with him but not just physical, but a lot of people want to talk to him too. They’re trying to upset him. He is zoning a lot of that out now and focusing on what he needs to do.”