"We never expected anything like this," said Wout Faes after a record UEFA Youth League crowd of 12,871 roared RSC Anderlecht on to victory against holders FC Barcelona.
Article top media content
The result was sensational, and the attendance figure even more dramatic, as RSC Anderlecht eliminated holders FC Barcelona in the UEFA Youth League round of 16 in front of a competition-record 12,871 crowd.
Aaron Leya Iseka scored the only goal eight minutes after half-time following good work from Bilal Jellal as Anderlecht overcame a Barcelona matchday squad featuring six members of the group that won the inaugural UEFA Youth League final last year: Lionel Enguene, Rodri Tarín, Mohamed El Ouriachi, Juanma García, Sergi Palencia and Juan Antonio.
"If we can knock out Barcelona, then we have no reason to fear anyone," said right-back Wout Faes, whose side will meet FC Porto in the quarter-finals. "It was special to play in front of so many supporters. We had heard before the match that there would be a lot of people coming to the game, but we never expected anything like this."
Match winner Leya Iseka's strike was his sixth in the competition this season, leaving him one shy of the total of seven shared by leading scorers Dominic Solanke of Chelsea FC and Borja Mayoral of Real Madrid CF. "My goal is to be top scorer in this competition, so I have to keep it up against Porto," he said. "We certainly won't underestimate them. We cannot forget that they knocked out Real Madrid."
Anderlecht general manager Herman Van Holsbeeck was immensely proud of his young charges. "This generation of players will be moving up to the first team in one or two years," he said. "This victory is a reward for everyone who works with these guys every day, out of the public eye. This proves that we are on the right track regarding youth development."
A huge queue outside the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium ahead of kick-off was testimony, meanwhile, to the popularity of UEFA's newest competition, which was introduced at the request of the European Club Association to give the youth sides of the continent's top teams the chance to tackle the best of their peers at Under-19 level.
Ties from the round of 16 onwards are all decided over one leg, intensifying the excitement, with the semi-finals and final contested at the Stade de Colovray, opposite UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
Highest attendances for UEFA Youth League games:
12,871: RSC Anderlecht 1-0 FC Barcelona (23/02/2015, round of 16)
8,122: Real Sociedad de Fútbol 1-2 FC Schalke 04 (25/02/14, round of 16)
5,563: PFC Ludogorets Razgrad 0-5 FC Basel 1893 (22/10/14, group stage)
4,230: PFC Ludogorets Razgrad 0-3 Real Madrid CF (01/10/14, group stage)
4,000: SL Benfica 0-3 FC Barcelona (14/04/14, final)
4,000: FC Schalke 04 0-1 FC Barcelona (11/04/14, semi-final)
4,000: Real Madrid CF 0-4 SL Benfica (11/04/14, semi-final)
3,867: Olympiacos FC 0-1 SL Benfica (06/11/13, group stage)
3,583: FC BATE Borisov 1-2 Athletic Club (30/09/14, group stage)
3,482: AFC Ajax 1-0 FC Barcelona (04/11/14, group stage)