Klopp’s boys set up Gunners clash
For all the formidable international talent in this Liverpool squad, there is something pleasing about seeing a young local lad – a “proper Scouser” as Jurgen Klopp has called him – wearing the No17 shirt and running the midfield. Comparisons with Steven Gerrard will always be made, but it was certainly an impressive performance from Curtis Jones as a fourth-round Carabao Cup tie at home to Arsenal next week was earned in a flurry of stunning goals. The 19-year-old claimed two of them.
Liverpool have laid out their ambitions by promising to attack every competition, and they did just that against League One Lincoln who – despite the scoreline and after the initial shock – actually acquitted themselves extremely well as their own two strikes showed.
Klopp made 10 changes from the weekend win over Chelsea – with the only survivor Virgil van Dijk going off at half-time – and was rewarded with hunger and desire and maybe the determination from players such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Grujic, making his first appearance since December 2017, to show they have a future at the club. Tellingly, both scored.
“That’s how it should be [Liverpool’s second XI playing like their first],” Klopp said. “Wear the shirt and show who you are. I’m happy with everything.” He should be and especially, surely, with Jones, who scored two superb goals and domiDuring nated throughout having, as he later said, waited for “my turn”.
“There is still space for improvement. Everybody knows my opinion about Curtis Jones,” Klopp said. “He is an exceptional talent, and we will have some fun with him.”
It felt like a promise rather than an optimistic claim and despite the arrival of Thiago Alcantara and the depth of midfield options, Jones should get more opportunities, not least because Liverpool are fighting on all fronts. Jones is earning them.
Maybe it might have been a little different had there been the 10,000 fans inside this stadium and maybe it might also have been different if Lincoln had not been so totally overwhelmed inside 36 minutes with the ferocity of Liverpool’s pressing and the remarkable accuracy of their finishing. “A masterclass,” Lincoln manager Michael Appleton ruefully said. And so the goals came.
For the first, Takumi Minamino was brought down by Lewis Montsma, which allowed Shaqiri a sight of goal. From 25 yards out, he grabbed it with a powerful free-kick that was whipped beyond goalkeeper Alex Palmer and high inside his near post.
Liverpool pressed again, with Montsma at fault as he attempted to bring the ball out from his area, only for his pass to be intercepted by Harvey Elliott, who attempted to pick out Divock Origi. Montsma blocked, it fell to Minamino and he curled a first-time shot that left Palmer rooted.
Then it was Jones’s turn. Origi won a header from Elliott’s cross and it dropped to the midfielder, who deftly dragged it back, took a touch and arced a shot around the goalkeeper. His second was similar as he sent in another curling shot, which deflected off Liam Bridcutt. In doing so, he became the youngest player since Raheem Sterling, in 2014, to score two goals in a game for Liverpool. Alongside Van Dijk was 19-year-old centre-half Rhys Williams, an academy product, on his debut, as was new signing Kostas Tsimikas, with £41million Diogo Jota coming on for his first appearance. Before that, and just 17 seconds after the restart, Jones put Elliott clear, with Palmer saving well only for the ball to rebound to Minamino who guided his volley into the unguarded net.
To Lincoln’s immense credit, and maybe with Van Dijk off, they hit back. Four times they were thwarted by Adrian – who denied Harry Anderson, blocked James Jones’s follow-up, another from Tayo Edun and, soon after, frustrated Anthony Scully before the latter two Lincoln players combined to break through.
Scully found Edun, who steadied himself, feinted to shoot and guided the ball low beyond Adrian.
Liverpool struck again when Grujic, who has been on loan for two seasons in Germany, caught out Palmer with a fierce low shot, only for Montsma to meet a corner with a towering header which struck the crossbar and bounced over the line. Inevitably Liverpool finished the scoring as Minamino broke and Origi thumped another fierce low shot from the area’s edge past a dispirited Palmer.
“Everyone used the opportunity to show up, that is very important,” Klopp declared. “My door is always open and if a player shows desire – because they all can play football – that is why they are at Liverpool.” No one showed that more Jones, the exciting young talent from Toxteth.
Takumi Minamino scores Liverpool’s fifth goal and his second of the night as a much-changed side were still too strong for League One Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup third round at the LNER Stadium. Liverpool face Arsenal in the next round
CHIEF FOOTBALL CORRESPONDENT