Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup third round on Monday night at Molineux, with a long-range strike from Ruben Neves proving to be the difference between the two sides. It was hardly a vintage performance from Jurgen Klopp’s men, with the manager fielding nine changes in an attempt to offer both fringe and young players the opportunity to impress.
Many Reds fan had expressed their desire to see Liverpool lose in a bid to focus the mind on their Premier League title bid, with the gap between them and Manchester City now down to just four points after defeat at the Etihad. Indeed, their desire was met despite a stunning finish from Divock Origi and the late introductions of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, both of whom stepped up the pressure on Wolves late on.
Youngsters impress on a night of few positives for Liverpool
Albeit a game of few positives for Liverpool, the shinning performances of teenagers Curtis Jones and Rafael Camacho, both of whom were awarded with their first start for the club after impressing for the Academy, alongside Ki-Jana Hoever left a positive spin on the club’s future.
The 16-year-old became the youngest player to ever feature in the FA Cup for Liverpool after Dejan Lovren was withdrawn just minutes into the match with a hamstring strain. Placed alongside Fabinho in a makeshift back-four, it was a real baptism of fire for the youngster.
And yet on a night where the Reds fizzled out with a whimper, Hoever produced a brilliant individual performance that reflected exactly why Jurgen Klopp thinks so highly of him.
Molineux display shows Hoever's promising future
Showing confidence and calmness in possession, he was comfortably able to work the ball out from the back despite Simon Mignolet’s best efforts, with a series of goal-kicks putting unnecessary pressure on the youngster. Indeed, a brief passage of play in the second-half was the perfect depiction of his night.
Showing a great understanding and reading of the game, Hooever stepped in to intercept a Wolves attack before driving forward, beating three opponents before setting up a promising counter-attack. The teenager wasn’t shackled by the pressure of his first appearance for the club, but instead immersed himself in the occasion, appearing as those he’d been playing at this level for some time.
Monday night’s performance has rightfully earned him plaudits, the latest of which came from a fellow teammate. The oldest member of Jurgen Klopp’s side, James Milner spoke about the teenager’s impressive performance and what the future will hold for him.
“I think it’s good for the young boys to come in and get that experience,” Milner told the Evening Standard.
“I think you’ve got to look at those boys and say how well they’ve done. Ki coming on after a minute and playing like he did [was] absolutely outstanding”
“He’s going to be a top, top player you can see that straight away [with] his temperament. He’s comfortable on the ball," the club's vice-captain concluded.