Harry Kewell revealed Victor Ibarbo asked to play for his Under-21 side this afternoon – and his appetite for match practice certainly shone through as he scored twice in a 3-1 win over Colchester United.
The Colombian winger played 90 minutes in the 1-0 friendly win over Fulham on Friday and was in action again this afternoon, playing another full game as Kewell’s side beat The U’s in the Professional Development League Two South Division match.
He started very erratically, which was not ideal in front of the watching Quique Sanchez Flores, but grew in confidence as the game wore on and was easily the best player on the field. Sanchez Flores left before the first half was out but his assistants, Dean Austin and Alberto Giraldez, will no doubt fill the head coach in on the performance of the forward. After Alex Jakubiak slammed in the first, he made it two after a neat exchange with left-back Brandon Mason, beating the keeper with a low right-footed effort into the far corner. Colchester halved the deficit shortly after the break but Ibarbo restored the two-goal cushion with another strike, again with his right foot, that looped over the keeper and sailed into the back of the net.
In his third game for the U21s, the 25-year-old should have had a hat-trick when he was presented with a shooting opportunity following some fine defensive play from Jorell Johnson to launch a counterattack, but he saw his effort deflected wide for a corner. Johnson was imploring him to square it so he could have stroked the ball into the empty net.
The elusiveness and trickery of the on loan Cagliari winger saw him on the receiving end of a couple of robust second-half challenges, tackles that will have done him no harm at all as he continues to acclimatise to life in England. The feeling that he is at his most dangerous when he picks up the ball deep and, with space in front of him, runs at the opposition gained credence when he went on one near length-of-the-field first-half surge after Connor Smith had nutmegged an opponent.
“Victor is a raw player,” said Kewell. “Some of the stuff he does is mind blowing. It’s tough for players to drop down but Victor actually asked to come and play which is fantastic. He was a great example today. I don’t want him to play for me as he wants to be playing for the first team but when he plays for me he knows he’s got to work and he did that today and got the goals.”