Curtis Jones stepped onto the biggest stage of all to announce himself as the next great Liverpool talent.
And on a night that will make bold Jurgen Klopp proud, he was joined in the Champions League spotlight by two more emerging young stars, as the Reds manager’s huge gamble paid off.
The 19 year-old Jones scored a sublime goal against stunned Ajax, and produced a wonderfully mature display to put his side through to the knock out stages of the Champions League.
And in the process he grabbed a small milestone, as he scored the 50th Champions League goal of the Klopp’s Anfield reign making it a perfect night for the German boss.
Klopp was repaid for not only giving Jones another important Champions League role, but also making the bold step of choosing to give 22 year-old Irish keeper Caoimhin Kelleher his first European start in the absence of injured Alisson, instead of going with the safer more experienced option of usual reserve, Adrian.
Both produced immense performances, on a night when the youth structure of the club was showcased with a third acamdey graduate Neco Williams providing the vital assist.
Jones is a product of the impressive Anfield youth set up, and has scored some impressive goals as he has made quiet progress in the Liverpool team.
But in the midst of a crippling injury crisis he has taken responsibility and command of a place in midfield – and this time grabbed the chance to surely secure a more regular starting place now, with such an impressive display for a teenager.
In a team still rammed with stars, he looked completely at home alongside Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota, and caused the Dutch visitors a massive headache all evening.
He smashed one early shot against the post, but undeterred, tipped an open contest Liverpool’s way just before the hour mark with a supremely confident, technical finish.
It was Williams, who has been subjected to some unfair criticism from his own supporters, who provided a deep cross with his left foot from the right, that drifted over Ajax keeper Andre Onana, to allow Jones to ghost in at the far post and turn a difficult volley goalwards with the outside of his foot.
Klopp will hope that goal signals a change in fortune for his side.
If November was the cruelest month for Liverpool with a snowballing injury list that became an avalanche, then at least under Jurgen Klopp December has historically brought better tidings.
Liverpool are keen to repeat last season’s success – and you don’t want to miss a thing, surely?
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It’s been an extremely interesting start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
They got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds, before going on to conceded seven in a hammering by Aston Villa.
Virgil van Dijk’s season was ended by injury in the 2-2 draw at Everton, leaving the title favourites looking far less secure at the back – especially with Alisson’s injury worries too.
But there’s no slowing down in what is going to be a busy campaign – with Klopp ensuring his men continue at full pace as they bid for more title glory.
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They have lost just one of their last 30 matches in this month, a remarkable statistic given their inevitably punishing schedule, made even more impressive by the fact that defeat was to Villa in the EFL Cup, when the Reds were forced to field a youth team.
Kelleher played that night, one of only four Liverpool appearances before he made his Champions League debut here at Anfield against the classy Dutch side. And what an impact he made.
He produced a brilliant early stop from Ajax’s Everton flop Davy Klaassen, who did more in one night here than he did in his whole time at Goodison.
That was the start of a fine performance from Kelleher, who showed he can confidently cover in the 10 days Alisson with be absent with a hamstring injury.
First he produced a fine save from Antony, with Neres smashing the rebound against a post.
And he saved the best until last – earning a massive hug from Klopp at the final whistle as the manager raced to embrace him, with a superbly strong hand to somehow turn a powerful close range header from sub Klaas-Jan Huntelaar over the bar in the dying seconds.
From there, Liverpool completed the job, which will come as a massive relief for Klopp, who can now give his stars a night off in the final group game.
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