Match ends, Millwall 2, Derby County 3.
Millwall 2-3 Derby County: Louie Sibley hat-trick earns Rams comeback victory
Teenage midfielder Louie Sibley played the "complete game", grabbing a stylish hat-trick to earn Derby County a 3-2 win over fellow play-off hopefuls Millwall, according to boss Phillip Cocu.
The 18-year old capped a sensational performance on just his second league start as the Rams fought back from a goal down to move to within three points of the play-off places.
"He played a massive game," said Cocu on the first day of Championship football after a three-month absence. "Not only the way he played, but his total development as a young player is a real positive for us as a club.
"He scored great quality goals, a very complete game in his position. When we don't have possession he does his job, he works for the team."
The 18-year-old showed fine close control, weaving through the home defence to cancel out Matt Smith's headed opener to leave the scores level at the break.
Sibley's cool first-time finish from Martyn Waghorn's measured pass made it 2-1 and he completed his treble with another low first-time finish.
Lions substitute Jon Dadi Bodvarsson scrambled in an injury time effort from close range to give hope of an unlikely point, but they could not deny the Rams, who move level on points with their hosts and up to 12th in the table.
It was a shame Sibley's display and such an enthralling match had to be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus outbreak and so was witnessed by so few.
After some understandable early rustiness from both sides Millwall's willingness to surrender possession and territory paid off as Smith pounced but it was Phillip Cocu's side who were the more fluid and ambitious side throughout.
Wayne Rooney's experience allowed the youthful midfield of Sibley, Max Bird, Duane Holmes and Tom Lawrence to raid forward at will and they tormented the home defence for long periods.
Their best chances came on the break, with Mahlon Romeo and Ryan Leonard both going close, but Sibley could easily have ended up with six goals.
Young Ram Sibley outshines Rooney
Much of the focus has been on former England captain Rooney, and his influence on a young Rams side in his now familiar deeper role was clear.
But Sibley, who only made his full league debut in Derby's last Championship game - a 3-0 win over Blackburn in early March - was the clear man of the match.
The 18-year-old consistently found space in dangerous areas and looked assured and comfortable on the ball, both in his passing and when running at defenders.
Sibley's first goal, where he showed great control after a slick team move before crashing the ball high into the net, was the pick of his three and came just after he had gone close with a decent strike from distance.
Two mazy runs almost brought further goals, one effort flashing just wide and another producing a fine one-handed stop from Bartosz Bialkowski.
Sibley was not to be denied his hat-trick, however, with two similar strikes across goal from astute passes by Waghorn and substitute Chris Martin, securing a much-deserved third successive league victory for the visitors.
Rowett's rejuvenated Lions still in the frame
Millwall have been transformed since the appointment of Gary Rowett as boss in October and are still very much in contention for the play-offs despite this setback.
Rowett took over with the Lions 17th in the table, five points clear of danger, and there were signs of the quality and organisation which has seen them climb the table so impressively.
Smith's fine header from Shane Ferguson's pinpoint cross ended a lovely move, and had Leonard found the net when one-on-one before the break, or Smith managed to keep down his lob when through after the interval, the result could have been different.
But Derby, last season's beaten play-off finalists, looked brighter and sharper throughout and Cocu said they were good value for their win.
"Apart from the football we played, we also showed again that mentally we are a strong side," the Dutchman said. "We have confidence in our way of playing the game. We know we're going to be able to score one or two goals.
"The first time they really came close to our goal, they scored. And that's hard. We'd been really good, and then they get the goal.
"Some parts of the season we'd struggled in that aspect but we've improved a lot - confidence in the team and each other is high, and we showed that again."
Millwall manager Gary Rowett: "We're a team that thrives off the energy of the crowd in certain moments in the game and I think we found it hard when the game felt flat.
"Derby navigated it better than us, with their technical players and slow build-up play.
"We started OK, scored a very good goal, we broke well, pinched it in midfield and showed good composure to put a good ball in for Matt Smith.
"But after that we conceded two very poor goals in my opinion. They were well taken by Sibley, and I'm sure Derby will be delighted with them, but they were very poor, very soft."
- 3WallaceSubstituted forMahoneyat 81'minutes
- 7WallaceSubstituted forSkalakat 81'minutes
- 19WoodsSubstituted forWilliamsat 86'minutes
- 18LeonardSubstituted forBradshawat 74'minutes
- 10SmithSubstituted forBödvarssonat 74'minutes
- 37BogleSubstituted forDaviesat 76'minutes
- 32RooneySubstituted forMartinat 85'minutes
- 41BirdSubstituted forEvansat 85'minutes
- 23HolmesSubstituted forKnightat 62'minutes
- 40SibleyBooked at 89mins
- 9WaghornBooked at 38minsSubstituted forShinnieat 76'minutes
- Steve Martin
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Millwall 2, Derby County 3.
Attempt blocked. Jayson Molumby (Millwall) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jiri Skalak.
Foul by Chris Martin (Derby County).
Jake Cooper (Millwall) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Millwall 2, Derby County 3. Jón Dadi Bödvarsson (Millwall) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top left corner.
Attempt blocked. Shaun Williams (Millwall) header from the centre of the box is blocked.
Foul by Jason Knight (Derby County).
Tom Bradshaw (Millwall) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Corner, Millwall. Conceded by Tom Lawrence.
Goal! Millwall 1, Derby County 3. Louie Sibley (Derby County) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Craig Forsyth following a fast break.
Louie Sibley (Derby County) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Louie Sibley (Derby County).
Mahlon Romeo (Millwall) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Millwall. Shaun Williams replaces Ryan Woods.
Substitution, Derby County. Chris Martin replaces Wayne Rooney.
Substitution, Derby County. George Evans replaces Max Bird.
Attempt missed. Max Bird (Derby County) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Tom Lawrence with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Shane Ferguson.
Louie Sibley (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.