Liver­pool boys play ‘adult foot­ball’ as Klopp hails Mil­ner

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Carabao Cup - By Sam Dean at Sta­dium MK Raw tal­ent: Har­vey El­liott be­came the youngest player to start a com­pet­i­tive Liver­pool match

Liver­pool are back on their “perch”, ac­cord­ing to the club’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, and on the ev­i­dence of this largely com­mand­ing vic­tory over MK Dons, they have ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve their young­sters can help them stay there.

Jur­gen Klopp shares that con­fi­dence, it seems, mak­ing 11 changes here and then watch­ing con­tently as his tal­ented col­lec­tion of kids, helped by the tire­less James Mil­ner, pro­vided an en­cour­ag­ing glimpse of what the fu­ture might hold.

Peter Moore’s “perch” com­ments ear­lier in the day, in ref­er­ence to the phrase fa­mously used by for­mer Manch­ester United man­ager Sir Alex Fer­gu­son, could eas­ily have been thrown back in the club’s face had there been any hint of a slip-up. Moore, you sus­pect, had no rea­son to worry. In­deed, there are few rea­sons for any­one to worry about Liver­pool at the mo­ment; top of the ta­ble and look­ing so strong.

There were a hand­ful of hairy mo­ments in the sec­ond half, af­ter Mil­ner and young Ki-jana Ho­ever had given Liver­pool a two-goal lead, but Klopp could hardly have asked for more. It will not be so straight­for­ward against Ar­se­nal in the next round, al­though the draw will pro­vide a test of just how much faith Klopp has in these young­sters.

Curtis Jones, 18, was ex­cel­lent on the left wing, as was Har­vey El­liott, who, at 16 years and 174 days, be­came the youngest player to start a com­pet­i­tive match for Liver­pool. Ho­ever played well be­yond his 17 years, while goal­keeper Caoimhin Kelle­her, 20, pro­duced a spec­tac­u­lar save. “The boys played adult foot­ball,” Klopp said. “It was a very phys­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.”

Mil­ner ap­peared in­vig­o­rated by the young­sters. The 33-year-old, who made his pro­fes­sional de­but be­fore El­liott had even been born, scored the first and then cre­ated Ho­ever’s sec­ond. “The player with the most ex­pe­ri­ence was the best player on the pitch,” Klopp said.

A sell-out crowd, the largest for a home MK Dons game, could do noth­ing to help the hosts against op­po­si­tion of this cal­i­bre. Paul Tis­dale’s side, 15th in League One, only caused prob­lems late in the sec­ond half, when Jor­dan Bow­ery was de­nied by both the foot of the post and then by Kelle­her’s re­ac­tions. “We de­served a goal,” Tis­dale said.

The prob­lem was that Liver­pool de­served plenty more. El­liott struck the bar in both halves. The opener ar­rived late in the first pe­riod, when Mil­ner’s drive was spilt into his own net by Stu­art Moore. Af­ter the in­ter­val, Mil­ner’s left­wing cross was pow­er­fully headed in by Ho­ever at the back post.

MK Dons

Subs Liver­pool

Subs Ref­eree

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