Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

Morton the merrier

So continues the remarkable rise of Tyler Morton at Liverpool.

Having made his Premier League bow as a late substitute on Saturday against Arsenal, the young midfielder was handed a full Champions League debut against a Porto side including veteran Pepe – a senior professional before Morton had even been born.

It meant the 19-year-old lined up alongside Thiago Alcantara, a player he previously revealed he idolises.

There has, though, never been a sense of the teenager being anything other than grounded during his rapid elevation through the ranks.

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And he didn’t look out of place here.

Liverpool fans, keen to show their support for the boyhood Red, warmly applauded a pass around the corner by Morton to initiate an early counter-attack.

And there was audible relief when the teenager made a timely reception as Porto pressed for the opener during a nervy first half.

The highlight, though, was a searching ball over the top that dropped in behind visiting left-back Zaidu Sanusi for Mohamed Salah that initiated the Egyptian’s game-clinching strike with 20 minutes remaining.

Pepe, by the way, had departed injured long before the final whistle. Morton, though, is just getting started.

Konate suffers nervy night

It was an untimely coincidence Ibrahima Konate could well have done without.

Seconds after the Frenchman was booked for a clumsy foul on Joao Mario, the Kop broke into a chant saluting fellow centre-back Virgil van Dijk, who was warming up on the touchline among the substitutes.

Konate has spoken recently of his ultimate aim to match and perhaps surpass the Dutchman. Nothing wrong with such ambition.

But an unsteady, nervy display against Porto underlined why he has largely been kept under wraps by Jurgen Klopp since his £36million summer arrival from RB Leipzig.

Handed only his fifth Liverpool start – and debut outing for the club in the Champions League – Konate appeared overwhelmed during a hugely testing first half.

Indeed, it was his mistake that prompted the early Porto opportunity Otavio somehow contrived to spurn. Had that gone in, the game would have been a lot different.

In mitigation, Konate was featuring in an untried defence alongside Joel Matip, and did settle somewhat once the Reds edged ahead, finally coming to terms with the pace of the game.

And while the Frenchman can point to a fourth clean sheet in five Liverpool outings, Klopp will hope teething problems are soon addressed.

After all, with Joe Gomez still sidelined and a hectic schedule between now and the New Year, Konate is going to be needed.

Minamino an option

When it comes to bang for your buck, Takumi Minamino had been proving value for money for Liverpool this season.

In his first 242 minutes of action, the Japan international rattled in four goals, including a debut Premier League strike immediately after coming off the bench at home to Arsenal last Saturday.

Minamino, then, was overdue this Champions League start, his first at Anfield since he was beating the ground in frustration against FC Midtjylland after a poor performance last October.

There was to be no call for such a reaction here.

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The focal point of a forward line including first-choice Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Minamino, if not quite at his best, provided sufficient evidence the confidence of his Carabao Cup performances can be carried on to more lofty stages.

Decent, too, was the display of Divock Origi from the bench as Klopp made use of all five substitutions at his disposal.

Neco Williams will have benefited from a rare start, one of only four changes as the Reds boss resisted wholesale changes in the hope of not compromising the rhythm and momentum of the team and certain individuals.

With a clean bill of health and another victory under his belt, Klopp’s post-match satisfaction was justified.

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Wizadclick | WAC MAG 2021