Effortlessly efficient on the ball and mature beyond his years positionally, Liverpool’s Tyler Morton did not put a foot wrong on his Champions League bow – and the 19-year-old could now look forward to a starting San Siro spot
A beaming smile, a manager’s loving embrace and a sense of disbelief at full-time told all you needed to know about Tyler Morton’s Champions League debut.
The home-grown midfielder, who has been in the Liverpool ranks since the age of seven, had just been entrusted by Jurgen Klopp with 90 minutes in midfield at home to Porto, just four days after his first Premier League appearance.
The Reds boss strode up to the 19-year-old and tucked his head under his armpit, in a manner seen just about every week at Anfield. To Morton, though, it will have felt firmly like a job well done – the teenager can go to bed tonight merry after a controlled, mature display on the biggest night of his life.
Liverpool’s Tyler Morton did not look out of place as he made his Champions League debut
The 19-year-old played 90 minutes as Jurgen Klopp’s side beat Porto on Wednesday night
Morton, who was a stalwart in the Under-18s side which reached the FA Youth Cup final last season, was undoubtedly the name which stood out in a Liverpool starting XI still littered with star names.
No space for sentiment here, despite top-spot in Group B being sealed. Stand-in skipper Alisson, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were all amongst the starters.
Try telling it was an unimportant, meaningless game to Morton, who from the off looked assured and undaunted by the responsibility laid upon him in the pivot No 6 role.
Allowing Thiago and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to roam free further forward, Morton consistently took the ball effortlessly off the back four, on his back foot, before shuffling play onwards ahead of him.
Morton, who has been with Liverpool since the age of seven, strides out ahead of kick-off
The midfielder looked composed in receiving and delivering the ball in his first Anfield start
Nothing eye-catching, no sparks of ambitious skill. The simplicity to which he kept the hosts flowing – a one-two here, a timely interception there – showed a player in tune with what he could offer and deliver in the centre of the park.
Positionally, he was first rate and mature beyond his years also. In particular, a Porto attack late in the first-half was stifled by the teenager when he cut out Mehdi Taremi’s pass across the box, with Porto players onrushing to finish.
After half-time, a textbook central midfielder’s performance continued. If anything, Morton looked increasingly solid as the match progressed, accepting duels against Porto’s star players Luis Díaz and Evanilson and more often than not coming out on top.
Morton also did well to break up play on occasions as the Reds kept a hard-fought clean sheet
The teenager took it all in at full-time and may have played himself into a spot for AC Milan
But perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid to Morton – who turned down an offer from Everton in his junior years too – was that while Klopp used all five of his allotted substitutes, not one was reserved for Morton.
By the end, with the visitors consigned to their fate, a seemingly tireless Morton could allow some minutes to take it all in. These days don’t come round again.
An accomplished full debut for the 19-year-old, who may well now have his sights set on an appearance in the cauldron of the San Siro next month. On tonight’s evidence, it seems highly likely that Klopp will thrust the all-action midfielder back into the starting XI in two weeks time.