Tyler Morton walked on, twisting his head ever so sightly to get a peek over his shoulder to a familiar spec. From his panorama of the Anfield pitch for his Champions League bow against Porto, the 19-year-old took in his previous vista of these nights under the lights: the front row of the Annie Road End.
Sitting alongside his dad and his brother, Morton used to marvel that even though “it wasn’t the Kop,” they had “an unbelievable view of the players.”
Now he was one of those footballers in a Liverpool kit, representing the club in the competition so threaded to its history.
In a match where the result was meaningless for the Merseysiders with knockout qualification already secured, it meant everything to a kid that entered the academy at the age of seven.
If the opportunity alone wasn’t enough gold, the storyline had extra shimmer.
Morton naturally grew up idolising Steven Gerrard, but his late teenage years have been spent obsessively watching and trying to extract attributes from an altogether different midfielder: Thiago.
On Saturday, he replaced the pedigreed 30-year-old on 84 minutes to make his Premier League debut in the 4-0 dismantling of Arsenal.
If that already wasn’t enough of a ‘it was all a dream’ scene, Morton partnered Thiago in midfield against Porto, watching him decorate the night with a wondrous, DID YOU SEE THAT?! of a strike.
With 52 on the clock, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s awful free-kick was easily cleared, but the ball fell to Liverpool’s No6 – the furthest player back apart from goalkeeper Alisson.
Morton’s eyes and feet were trying to follow its trajectory and then… boom! Magic.
Thiago ran onto the ball, lent back ever so slightly as he used the cushioning of his right foot to cut straight through it and somehow managed to make it glide just above the grass before dissecting Fabio Cardoso’s legs and nestling into the bottom corner.
One of the all-time great goals from distance was now framing Morton’s big occasion – from the player who has helped frame his development.
Mohamed Salah scored a typically delicious effort to apply greater gloss that wasn’t really needed.
Liverpool triumphed in a match that won’t particularly engage memory banks for an age, but Morton could never forget it. This stage, his big break, that goal… it was all a dream.
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