Manager Frank Lampard heaped huge praise on his players following the penalty shootout victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford which saw them reach the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
Juan Mata put United ahead after only three minutes, however, Derby hit back and equalised just before the hour mark through a stunning free kick from Harry Wilson.
The hosts were reduced to 10-men after Sergio Romero handled outside his box and with five minutes remaining, Jack Marriott headed his first goal for the Rams to put them ahead.
However, deep into additional time, Marouane Fellaini sent the game to penalties after heading home at the back post.
15 perfect penalties followed and with Derby leading, Phil Jones stepped up but Scott Carson guessed right and saved to send Derby through to the last 16 of the competition.
And the manager was beaming with joy following the game. “The performance from the team was outstanding,” he told RamsTV. “We deserved to win the game outright but when it goes to penalties, you are asking for the luck of the draw but the quality of our penalties, the personality and character of the lads to stand up and want to take penalties like they did at Old Trafford is special.
“I’m so proud of them. We haven’t won anything. There are future rounds to go through to get to the final of this competition but we have shown what we can do if we work together, work hard, work as a group and we have quality here so I’m immensely proud.
“We spoke to the lads before and said what an opportunity it was to play here and let’s play as we have been playing. Let’s not put men behind the ball, let’s have a go and win the game the way we are playing and they did it.
“Even more impressively they did it after going a goal behind. It would have been easy to go how many could this be but we didn’t. We wanted the ball in midfield, Bradley Johnson was immense, Craig Bryson was immense, they were showing for balls in areas.
“There is a lot of bravery talked about in football and it’s bravery on the ball, it’s really special to want to receive the ball. We work hard on it every day but the players are the ones that have to go out and do it and they did it in one of the biggest stages.”
Wilson’s free kick was special. The Liverpool-loanee lined up an effort from 30 yards and the ball dipped and curled into the top corner and Lampard was not surprised it came off.
“That’s technique and he works on that in training,” the manager said. “I thought he was a bit far out and he proved me wrong but he has quality. We were right behind it and the movement of the ball, but it’s technique and hard work.
“These lads are all working, he and Mount are desperate to be top players and we are part of their journey. The work rate they put in, they deserve their moment at Old Trafford. To score a free kick like that is a huge moment for Harry and I’m delighted for him.”
The manager also reserved a word for his striker Marriott who notched his first goal in Derby County colours. “I’m delighted for Jack,” he admitted. “He’s a goalscorer, he creates goals, he works hard in training to score the goals. I said to him what better place to score his first goal for us and then he popped up like a poacher, like we want him to be.”
Carson was the penalty hero as he dived to his right to deny Jones’ spot kick. “It’s about time he saved one,” Lampard joked. “Scott is immense. He is a great goalkeeper for us and has a great personality so he deserves his moment and we deserved that moment. Their penalties were great to be fair. They were hitting top corners and everything so it was quality throughout but Scotty did the business.”
It was a special night for Lampard as he beat his former mentor and after the game, the Manchester United boss had kind words to say about Derby County.
“He just said what an impressive performance it was from the team,” said Lampard. “He was very complimentary, he was very welcoming from the beginning of the day.
“It was an honour for me. I played for Jose Mourinho and he changed my career. He changed my mentality when I was 25 years of age and I was part of a very successful era at Chelsea usually because of him. To stand next to him on the touchline was an honour.”