How Tyler Morton performed on Champions League debut as his fine Liverpool performance lacked one thing

The academy product was impressive in the Reds’ 2-0 Champions League victory over Porto.

Jurgen Klopp was unequivocal when it came to Tyler Morton’s Champions League debut.

Ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Porto, the name of the youngster was unsurprisingly on everyone’s lips.

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Included in a three-man midfield alongside Thiago Alcantara and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, there was much anticipation.

Was he ready? Could he handle the pressure of a packed Anfield? Those were the pertinent questions.

Klopp already knew the answer when speaking before kick-off.

“He’s a smart kid, he knows,” said the Reds manager.

“He’s very excited, nervous for sure, we’re human beings. But, in the end, it’s all in his football because he’s a good footballer.

“Nobody plays the six [position] like Fabinho, so why should he? He is a brilliant player, we have to be together to make sure the spaces are small enough for him to defend really well and that’ll give him security, confidence.

“We have a really good baller in that position.”

Tyler Morton warms up ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Porto. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The thing Morton lacked

The only thing that Morton’s night lacked was a standing ovation.

When James Milner was preparing to come on in the closing stages, many might have thought the academy graduate was going make way and be given a round of applause from the Anfield crowd.

Instead, Klopp left him on to see out the 90 minutes. Maybe it was to not let Morton get too far ahead of himself, although it mainly was due to being fit enough to see out the game.

For someone who’d played just three senior matches beforehand, the Wirral-born teenager scarcely performed with such inexperience.

There was composure throughout. Things were simple but that wasn’t a bad thing at all. At times, that was exactly the thing required.

In the fifth minute, Morton displayed his range of passing in a tight space. He played a reverse pass to Oxlade-Chamberlain, which opened up all sorts of space for the Reds. Unfortunately, the ex-Arsenal man’s through ball intended for Mo Salah was just cut out.

The memory Kopites will take home from Morton’s game was a pivotal one in the 70th minute. Picking the ball up from deep, he spread a raking long ball for Salah. Seconds later, Liverpool had their second through the Egyptian after he was slipped in by Jordan Henderson.

Mo Salah celebrates Liverpool’s second goal against Porto. Picture: ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images

But operating as a defensive midfielder, Morton was expected to do his share of screening the rearguard.

You have to say that was a job well done, with the Reds collecting a second clean sheet in as many matches.

That might have been different had Morton not snuffed out Mehdi Taremi’s 42nd-minute cross. True, the Porto striker should have gone for goal himself and his decision to cut back the ball left his manager Sergio Conceicao incensed.

Still, Morton did what he could only dictate - and that was ensuring the danger was cleared.

In the second half, he also threw himself into challenges with visiting talisman Luis Diaz.He wasn’t fazed by the supposed €80 million rated Colombian.

That’s a stat

The statistics also back up a positive performance on the eye.

WhoScored gave Morton a match rating of 7.29, which made him Liverpool’s fifth best performer on the night.

Impressively, he won three aerial duels. That was the joint-second best of Klopp’s troops alongside Ibrahmima Konate, with Joel Matip coming out on top with eight.

In total, Morton touched the ball 54 times and his passing accuracy of 82.9% was better than the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino.

An able deputy

Ultimately, the reason why the England under-20 international was handed an opportunity in Europe’s elite club competition was because of the injury situation at Anfield.

Thiago Alcantara celebrates Liverpool’s opening goal against Porto. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Jordan Henderson and James Milner were only fit enough to come off the bench, while Naby Keita (hamstring), Curtis Jones (eye) and Harvey Elliott (ankle) all remain absent.

When Klopp has more options available, Morton will be demoted back down to the under-23s.

Still, the fledgling talent’s performance against Porto augurs well for the future.

If Morton’s required again in the future, Klopp will have no hesitation about using him.