Curtis Jones was the star of the show at Estadio do Dragao on Tuesday night as Liverpool thrashed Porto 5-1 on their own patch in the Champions League.
That he outshone two-goal Mohamed Salah, who netted for the sixth Liverpool game in a row and went ahead of Samuel Eto’o on the all-time Champions League scorers list, and Roberto Firmino, who also netted twice after coming off the bench, tells you all you need to know.
Despite the hype that has surrounded him since a first-team debut aged 17, Jones hasn’t had the easiest few months.
Fans became incredibly excited in the summer of 2020 when the home-grown talent swapped his academy number 48 shirt for the 17 jersey once worn by Steven Gerrard. He was a permanent part of the first-team squad last season and was starting fairly regularly in both the Premier League and Champions League from November through to March.
Unfortunately for Jones that run of games coincided with a particularly sticky patch for Liverpool as a whole. He was benched after the defeat to Chelsea in March and only started one of the Reds’ remaining 11 league matches as they surged from seventh to third.
Jones has since had to be patient at the start of this season for his chance to come back. He didn’t feature in any of Liverpool’s opening four Premier League games and had to wait until the Carabao Cup tie against Norwich for his first start of the new campaign.
But things have snowballed from there and the injury absence of Thiago Alcantara has also played into the youngster’s hands. As a starter, he netted in the weekend’s 3-3 draw with Brentford and has now gone from strength to strength with his performance against Porto.
Jones was responsible for creating or causing four of Liverpool’s five goals on the night. He started brightly driving forward from midfield and that was how the Reds broke the deadlock, with him taking the ball on, cutting in from the left to take a shot, which resulted in a Salah tap in.
The midfielder laid on Salah’s second and Liverpool’s third at the hour mark, winning the ball himself, driving forward and feeding his teammate with an inch perfect pass into the penalty area. He then managed to assist Firmino when Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa committed a howler charging so far out of his goal, before a deflected shot from Jones gave Firmino the chance for another.
Jurgen Klopp saw fit to take others off as he made changes in the second half, but not Jones, who was given the opportunity to complete 90 minutes for the first time since February.
It is easy to forget that he is still only 20 and it is important to stress that he deserves time to develop. But this was a timely reminder of the enormous talent that he is and the long-term potential that he has. For now, at least, the chances will keep on coming.
Source : 90min