Kaide Gordon impressed in the 3-0 win
While Liverpool’s second trip to Norwich this season produced the same 3-0 result, it was a trio of teenage debutants who provided the intrigue. These two sides met in the Premier League a little over a month ago and a replay in the Carabao Cup this soon was hardly in high-demand, but it is in the early glimpses of the next generation that offer contests of this nature value that is often in short supply.
At Carrow Road, it was 16-year-old Kaide Gordon and 18-year-old Conor Bradley who were the fresh faces and new names on the Liverpool team sheet, while Tyler Morton, also 18, was a half-time substitute. All three more than held their own on what was a positive evening for Jurgen Klopp, as Liverpool’s next generation contributed to a comfortable away win.
Of the Liverpool debutants, it was Gordon who attracted the most pre-match hype. Forward players naturally do, but the teenager has progressed quickly since joining the club from Derby for £1.1 million. He has trained with the first team since catching the eye of assistant manager Pep Lijnders, who urged Klopp to invite him on Liverpool’s pre-season tour. “He’s a top, top talent,” Klopp said of Gordon beforehand. “You will see that immediately.”
There were, indeed, notable flashes, particularly of the teenager’s direct dribbling. Gordon had to wait until the 23rd minute for his first significant touch in a forward area but immediately stood up his opposing defender with an air of arrogance, before waving his foot over the ball and gliding inside the box in one fluid motion. Gordon looked to shoot early with his favoured left foot after cutting inside and his low drive whistled past the near post, as he almost marked his debut with a dream goal.
“He passes players like they are not standing there,” said Lijnders this week, when describing the player who he said has “fire” in his boots. The Dutchman also called Gordon the “typical Liverpool winger” but there were also occasions throughout the second half in which he popped up in central areas. A shimmy in midfield to create a yard of space was followed by a perfect through pass to Divock Origi, who curled wide of the far post. Gordon then arrived in the box to meet an Origi cross from the left but lashed his effort over the bar.
Gordon has been mentored by James Milner and Trent Alexander-Arnold since making the step up to the first team and both players will have advised the 16-year-old before tonight not to overreact too much either way following his debut performance. Those same words will have been passed on to Bradley, on what was a more testing night for the 18-year-old, who responded well after conceding a first-half penalty.
The Northern Ireland international displayed the required drive from right back to assist Gordon in Liverpool’s attacks, at one point cutting inside two Norwich defenders before being hauled back for a foul, but was caught out defensively on a couple of occasions. In what is a moment that no one wants to see happen to them on their debut, Bradley conceded a penalty after getting on the wrong side of Dimitris Giannoulis, only to be bailed out by goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher.
The assured performance of the 22-year-old Kelleher was a reminder that Gordon, Bradley and second-half substitute Morton, who impressed with his calmness in possession and bite in the tackle, are merely the next wave of the production line at Anfield. It was at this stage of the Carabao Cup two seasons ago that Kelleher made his Liverpool debut alongside Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones, who was still in the infancy of his senior career.
Trent Alexander-Arnold made his own debut in the competition three years earlier, at a time where there was more excitement around Ben Woodburn, who scored in a 2-0 win over Leeds to become Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer at 17 years and 45 days. The Wales international is now battling for his future at the club and is on loan at Hearts this season.
All three players received a trademark hug from Klopp at full time and the German will certainly want another look at Gordon based on tonight’s performance – but everyone at Liverpool will know that now is when the hard work truly begins.
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