Effortlessly efficient on the ball and positionally mature beyond his age, Liverpool’s Tyler Morton was right on his Champions League goal, and the 19-year-old can now look forward to a starting spot at the San Siro.
A beaming smile, a loving hug from a coach, and a sense of full-time disbelief told him everything he needed to know about Tyler Morton’s Champions League debut.
The local midfielder, who has been in Liverpool’s 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 approached the 19-year-old and tucked his head under his armpit, in a way seen almost every week at Anfield. Yet for Morton it will have firmly felt like a job well done: the teenager can go to bed tonight happily after a controlled and mature display on the most important night of his life.
Liverpool’s Tyler Morton didn’t seem out of place when he made his Champions League debut
The 19-year-old played 90 minutes when Jurgen Klopp’s team beat Porto on Wednesday night.
Morton, who was a stalwart on the U-18 squad that reached the FA Youth Cup final last season, was undoubtedly the name that stood out in a Liverpool starting XI that is still littered with star names.
There is no room for sentiment here, even though the top spot in Group B is sealed. Substitute captain Alisson, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were among the starters.
Try telling him that it was a pointless and unimportant game for Morton, who from the beginning seemed confident and unflappable by the responsibility placed on him in the role of pivot number 6.
Morton allowed Thiago and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to move freely forward, and constantly took the ball effortlessly from the four behind, with his rear foot, before dragging the game forward ahead of him.
Morton, who has been at Liverpool since the age of seven, is ahead of the game.
The midfielder looked serene as he received and delivered the ball in his first start at Anfield.
Nothing flashy, no flashes of ambitious skill. The simplicity with which he kept the hosts flowing – a one-two here, a timely interception there – showed a player attuned to what he could deliver and deliver in the center of the park.
Positionally, he was also top-notch and mature beyond his years. In particular, a Porto attack late in the first half was quelled by the teenager when he cut off a Mehdi Taremi pass through the area, and Porto players rushed to finish off.
After the break, the performance of a textbook central midfielder continued. If anything, Morton looked more and more solid as the match progressed, accepting duels against Porto’s star players Luis Diaz and Evanilson and most of the time coming out on top.
Morton also did well to break the game at times, as the Reds maintained a close clean sheet.
The teenager took it all in full time and may have played himself at a venue for AC Milan.
But perhaps the biggest compliment to Morton, who also turned down an offer from Everton in his youth, was that while Klopp used all five assigned substitutes, none were reserved for Morton.
In the end, with visitors consigned to their destination, a seemingly tireless Morton could allow himself a few minutes to take it all in. These days don’t happen again.
A consummate full debut for the 19-year-old, who may now well have his sights set on an appearance at the San Siro cauldron next month. Based on the evidence tonight, it seems highly likely that Klopp will push the action midfielder back to the starting eleven in two weeks.