Liverpool’s 18-year-old midfielder Curtis Jones celebrated a dream first goal for the club when his spectacular shot was enough to defeat derby rivals Everton in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.
For his manager Jurgen Klopp, the sight of the Liverpool-born teenager curling in a winner that any of his first-choice stars would have been proud of was no surprise at all.
“Unbelievable player, Scouser, very confident, can’t wait to play in the first team, good, rightly so, he is [on] a very good way,” said Klopp after the 1-0 win.
“I have known him for three-and-a-half years, he has made big steps, will 100% be a Liverpool player, if nothing strange happens. Great.
“That he scores that goal? I am not surprised. He is for these situations. Still a lot to learn, a lot to improve. Sometimes people forget in training, he is 18, unbelievable,” he said.
Jones has been making clear to Klopp that he feels ready for the first team and admitted he had found it hard to feature only infrequently for the Premier League leaders and European champions.
“It’s been frustrating at times being on the bench and then getting a taste on the pitch and then being back on the bench,” he said.
“I’ve been basically begging to come on but hopefully I’ve topped it off with a good goal,” said the academy product.
“I can’t sum up my emotions. For me it’s huge just being around this team every day and learning from this group of players. There are world-class players all over this team but I think I went out and showed what I could do on the pitch,” he added.
“[Milner] has pain, that says it’s serious. It’s [his] muscle,” Klopp said.
On Japanese midfielder Minamino, who arrived from FC Salzburg during the winter transfer window, Klopp said: ”Your first game in a team you don’t know, if it’s a settled team it’s already difficult — this team we threw more or less on the pitch with two sessions together. And then showing this kind of game understanding, football skills are exceptional, attitude is outstanding, led the chasing pack so often in different situations, which I loved.”
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti rejected the suggestion that his team had been affected by Liverpool making nine changes and fielding such a young side.
“The line-up of Liverpool didn’t affect our idea of how to play; we knew that Liverpool put in fresh players and that the intensity could be a high intensity so I think the defeat arrived because we were not able to keep the intensity in the second half,” he said.
We lost energy, we lost confidence, we were not able to build up quick from the back.”
The Italian has faced a busy schedule of matches since taking over last month and said he was looking forward to finally getting down to work on the training ground with his squad.
“We are going to speak and work together to find a solution to help improve the team. I know we have to work,” he said.
“Next week we have all week to prepare the team and train. In this period we played only games and didn’t train practically. To train will be good to improve the quality of our play and to have more confidence on the pitch.”