Sev­enth heaven

Klopp’s boys set up Gun­ners clash

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Ja­son Burt at the LNER Sta­dium

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

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