20-year-old’s dream debut as A-Leagues products run riot in England

Australians and A-Leagues products hit the ground running and found the back of the net in the EFL Cup on Wednesday (AEST), including Aussie-born Zak Gilsenan.

Former Perth Glory youngster Gilsenan made a dream debut for Blackburn Rovers, scoring and assisting in a 4-3 win over Walsall at Ewood Park.

The 20-year-old, who played youth football at Barcelona’s fabled La Masia academy before moving to Liverpool, starred as he scored his first senior goal.

EFL Championship outfit Blackburn twice came from behind thanks to Gilsenan, who started the first-round tie and equalised in the 21st minute before turning provider for John Buckley to give Rovers the lead 23 minutes from the end.

Gilsenan signed a new two-year contract extension through to 2025 in June after impressing for Blackburn’s Under-21 side, having recovered from almost a year out due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

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“It’s a great feeling to sign another contract with the club and hopefully I’ll be here at Ewood on more occasions in the future,” he said at the time.

“My first minutes, after recovering from my ACL, came in October and slowly but surely I progressed on from there and I think I made good strides during the second half of last season.”

Dubbed the ‘Irish Messi’ after swapping Australia’s youth team for the Republic of Ireland’s U19 side two years ago, he had signed a two-year scholarship with Rovers in 2021 which was up for renewal before Blackburn – who play in England’s second tier – renewed.

He was called up by Tony Vidmar as a train-on player ahead of June’s Maurice Revello Tournament before withdrawing due to personal reasons.

He added: “This is a season where I really want to kick on and show everyone what I can do, and hopefully I can impress. I definitely want to be playing first team football this year and I think I’m capable of doing that.

“Seeing the other young lads do well last season is really encouraging, especially Jake Garrett, as he’s the same age as me and we went through our scholarship together, so that makes me want to push on and show that I can be up there as well.

“I’ve been here since I was an Under-16 and this club feels like home now. To break into the first team here would be amazing for me and my family.

“We’ve travelled around the world and they’ve been really supportive, so to make my debut for Rovers would be a special and unbelievable feeling.”

Gilsenan joined Blackburn at U16 level following time with Barcelona and Liverpool.

Born in Joondalup in Perth, he spent a year with Glory’s youth team before going on trial at Premier League outfit Tottenham, where he was named player of the tournament at a training camp in 2012.

During that trial, Gilsenan was scouted by Spanish juggernaut Barcelona. He initially trialled with over 400 other kids in his age group over four days. With only limited spots available in the 2003-born bracket, he earned a position in the famed academy with seven goals in the final trial match.

Gilsenan spent two years at Barca, captaining the team in an international tournament, which saw he and his teammates welcomed home by walking out onto Camp Nou with superstar Neymar.

After two years in Spain, he left in 2014 and spent five years with Premier League giants Liverpool. He has since called Blackburn home since 2019.

The ‘Waine Train’ at the double

Ben Waine had a game to remember as the former Wellington Phoenix forward scored twice to lead Plymouth Argyle past Leyton Orient in the EFL Cup.

The New Zealand international, who left Wellington for Plymouth in January, enjoyed a confidence-boosting outing to guide his team through to the second round.

It was the first time Waine had scored at home for Plymouth, having previously scored away to Bristol Rovers and Morecambe last season.

“I’ve been waiting to score at home so it’s been an amazing night,” Waine told Argyle TV.

“Great feeling but the most important thing is we’ve moved on. Those cup ties can be a bit niggly.”

Waine scored once in nine league appearances last season as Plymouth secured promotion to the Championship, while the 22-year-old added another in cup competition in 2022-23.

His head coach, Steven Schumacher, said: “I’m really pleased for Ben. That’s his first goals at Home Park.

“He has been here since January, he works so hard every day in training.

“He’s desperate to learn and improve, and get better so he’s going to get chances. I think his all-round performance was good tonight and for him to score two goals here at Home Park in front of the Devonport End that will give him loads of confidence.”

Yengi does it again as a Socceroo debuts

Former Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers forward Kusini Yengi bagged a double in Portsmouth’s 3-1 win at Forest Green Rovers.

After a dramatic added-time equaliser on his League One debut on the weekend at Bristol Rovers, Yengi bundled a corner home for Pompey’s 30th-minute leveller at League Two Forest Green.

Alex Robertson (L) and Kusini Yengi (R)

The 24-year-old A-Leagues graduate added a spot kick on 75 minutes to settle it, taking his tally to three goals in four days.

“My only criticism was that he (Yengi) didn’t come away with more and he probably didn’t want to come off after scoring two goals,” manager John Mousinho said.

“I told him that if he’d taken one away early doors then he would have had a hat-trick. But I’m really pleased for him. It’s been a really promising first couple of games.”

New loan signing Alex Robertson, from Premier League champions Manchester City, was named among the substitutes and the recently-capped Socceroo entered for his Portsmouth debut just after the hour mark.

Silvera and McGree score as Glover debuts

Former Central Coast Mariners star Sammy Silvera marked his first start with a goal in Middlesbrough’s 3-2 win against 10-man Huddersfield Town.

Silvera, who joined at the start of the season as Isuzu UTE A-League champions Central Coast received a record fee, equalised in the 20th minute after Huddersfield had a player sent off.

Socceroo Riley McGree bagged Boro’s third as ex-Melbourne City goalkeeper started his first official game for the club following his arrival.

Silvera and Isaiah Jones both impressed, which has given boss Michael Carrick something to think about.

“I already had something to think about,” the Manchester United legend laughed. “That’s the quality we have in the group in certain positions.

“I’m really pleased with them we want boys to be playing well and when they get a chance, to take them and force their way into the team.

“That’s healthy rivalry, it makes the squad better and the team better, so yeah really pleased with them boys. They took their goals well and looked dangerous. It was good.”

Elsewhere, former Mariners defender Nectarios Triantis started his first match for Sunderland in their penalty shoot-out loss to Crewe Alexander and Kenny Dougall’s Blackpool had a 2-0 away win over compatriot Callum Elder’s Derby County.