Phillip Cocu was delighted with both the result and performance of his side as Derby County got their Sky Bet Championship campaign back underway with a 3-2 victory at Millwall on Saturday afternoon.
Playing behind-closed-doors at The Den in their first match for just over three months, owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, Derby turned on the style to defeat the Lions.
Teenager Louie Sibley's hat-trick capped a sensational performance as Derby earned a third successive league win to propel themselves further into the play-off race.
The 18-year-old Academy graduate showed fine close control, weaving through the home defence to cancel out Matt Smith's headed opener, to have Cocu’s side back on level terms at 1-1 before half-time.
Midfielder Sibley's cool first-time finish from Martyn Waghorn's measured pass made it 2-1 and he completed his treble on just his second league start with another low first-time finish from inside the box late on.
Lions substitute Jon Dadi Bodvarsson scrambled in an injury time effort from close range to give hope of a point, but Derby held firm.
Cocu was understandably delighted with the way his side performed on their return to action.
Speaking to RamsTV after the final whistle Cocu said: “I am delighted with this result and especially after the first situation Millwall had in our 18 yard box, with us dominating the game, they scored.
“Mentally, we showed great strength and we tried to play 90 minutes with our game and philosophy. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but we were not scared to make mistakes and play out from the back.
“I have to say we scored three great goals and this result gives us a lot of confidence for the next game.
“I am very happy with not only this result but also the performance of the team as well, especially after having a few weeks to prepare after the break in the season. We did an excellent job.”
Sibley’s progress over the course of the campaign has pleased Cocu.
The youngster, who was part of Derby’s Under-18 Premier League title-winning side last season, was incredibly making just his second league start in professional football at The Den.
He crowned his first league start against Blackburn with a goal before the unexpected break in the campaign in early March and Cocu believes the youngster is moving in the right direction in his personal development.
He said: “Louie scored three great goals today but if you look at how he played as well, we can be very satisfied.
“He has developed on a tactical level and learnt how we can put his qualities in the team. He has adapted quickly to the demands within the team and he has done it himself.
“His development over the season is the reason why he has started playing for the team and we have the confidence in him. He knows he still needs to learn and improve and he will get much better."
He added: “With three goals I think it is an understatement to say he was very important for us today.”
With fans unable to attend matches for the remainder of the season, under UK Government guidelines, the Derby faithful were instead able to watch the game live on RamsTV back at home.
Cocu stated before the restart of the season that a key aim for everyone involved with the club was to bring joy and happiness to the watching supporters back at home.
It is fair to say his side certainly did that.
He said: “I said before the game that we wanted to bring some joy and happiness to our fans as they couldn’t be with us.
“We know they can only watch home so I hope they enjoyed our performance today in these difficult times.”
He added: “The circumstances and atmosphere was different playing in an empty stadium; the home advantage can be less because of this but we just have to focus on our game and what we do, with the next game being Reading at home in one week.”