Soccer

'Super' Takumi Minamino makes Liverpool debut in F.A. Cup derby win over Everton

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo, AP

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp described Takumi Minamino as “super and outstanding” after the Japanese international made his debut in a 1-0 F.A. Cup win over Everton on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Minamino, who signed for £7.25 million ($9.4 million) from Salzburg in Austria, was part of a Liverpool lineup that featured a number of changes for the third-round match at Anfield.

Minamino, who has 22 caps with Japan, almost scored in his debut before he was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after 70 minutes.

“Super, outstanding. Exactly the player we wanted, exactly the player we wished for,” Klopp said of his new forward.

“Your first game in a team you don’t know, if it’s a settled team it’s already difficult — this team we threw more or less on the pitch with two sessions together.

“And then showing this kind of game understanding, football skills are exceptional, attitude is outstanding, led the chasing pack so often in different situations, which I loved.”

Minamino left the pitch to a standing ovation when he was replaced.

“I was thrilled to finally be able to play, but I just wanted to play like normal,” Minamino said.

“It doesn’t get any better than this stadium for a player, the fans were fiery and it was good to win,” he said. “It was probably the most intense match I’ve ever played.”

Liverpool’s victory was sealed by a superb strike from teenager Curtis Jones, whose second-half curler sent Anfield into ecstasy as the club’s youth academy graduates handed Everton an embarrassing derby defeat.

The 18-year-old Liverpool-born midfielder was making only his fifth appearance and his memorable shot was his first senior goal.

Jones is the youngest scorer for Liverpool in a Merseyside derby since Robbie Fowler in 1994.

“They played brave football. Unbelievable individual performances from the kids and the adults as well,” Klopp said.

“I’m so happy they all showed up tonight. Sensational game and a sensational goal from a Scouser. Who could ask for more?”

Hit by injuries that left him with 12 healthy senior outfield players, Klopp made nine changes, selecting Nat Phillips, 22, and the teenage trio of Neco Williams, Harvey Elliott and Jones.

In contrast, Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti made just two changes, fielding a strong team as the visitors chased a first win at Anfield since 1999.

Liverpool’s injury problems worsened within 10 minutes, when James Milner limped off and was replaced by another teenager, Yasser Larouci.

Ancelotti’s side threatened early on, when Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s strike was pushed away from Adrian, who then saved Mason Holgate’s header and Richarlison’s shot.

Liverpool’s youngsters had been thrashed by Aston Villa while the senior stars were away at the Club World Cup in December, but acquitted themselves much better this time.

Minamino sent in a header that was narrowly off-target before Divock Origi’s low drive was brilliantly saved by Jordan Pickford.

Jones’ moment of magic came in the 71st minute.

Collecting the ball outside the area on the left, Jones bent a shot into the far corner off the underside of the crossbar.

“The ball came to me and I only had one thing in mind — to shoot,” said Jones, who was just 6 years old when he joined Liverpool. “Luckily enough it led to the matchwinner and a great goal.”

The strike evoked memories of one scored by Wayne Rooney for Everton against Arsenal in 2002 as a 16-year-old. That goal also flew in off the bar and rocketed Rooney to overnight stardom.

Eighteen years later, and now a deep-lying midfielder in the twilight of his career, the 34-year-old Rooney is still proving his worth.

Rooney played with authority and discipline as second-tier Derby’s captain on Sunday, inspiring his new team to a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace, which became the third Premier League team to lose to lower-league opposition in the third-round this season.

“He influenced the game a lot because you could see his experience,” Derby manager Phillip Cocu said of Rooney, who had 77 touches of the ball — more than any other Derby player.

“He knows when to receive the ball and has great delivery when he gives it. The other players know he will give the pass so they will make the runs.”

Elsewhere, Tottenham’s honeymoon period under Jose Mourinho looks to be over.

After a strong start under the self-styled “Special One,” it’s now just one win in the last five games for Tottenham, which had to come from a goal down for a 1-1 draw at second-tier Middlesbrough.

Lucas Moura headed in the equalizer in the 61st to rescue Tottenham, which was poor and one-paced in the first half and fell behind after Ashley Fletcher’s goal in the 50th minute.

Mourinho said his team missed the presence of Harry Kane, who is out with an ailing hamstring, which his coach said “is not a small injury.”

“In this moment, it is not going to be, ‘Harry, Harry, Harry, Harry,’ ” Mourinho said. “We have what we have and we stick with them. The boys did what they can, you cannot transform Lucas or Son (Heung-min) into a No. 9 like Harry Kane.”

Chelsea won 2-0 after Callum Hudson-Odoi drilled home the opener and then had a hand in Ross Barkley’s easy finish against Nottingham Forest.

Sheffield United ended up only scraping to a 2-1 win over AFC Fylde, which was the last non-league team remaining in the competition. West Ham beat third-tier Gillingham 2-0 thanks to second-half goals by substitutes Pablo Zabaleta and Pablo Formals.

Queens Park Rangers, Barnsley and West Bromwich Albion, all from the second tier, were other teams to advance.