Season Highlights: Curtis Jones’ Astonishing Arrival Against Everton

Season Highlights: Curtis Jones' Astonishing Arrival Against Everton
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Every now and then, you see a young player have something which can only be described as a moment. It comes along in the conceptual stages of their career and it tells you, in no uncertain terms, that they have something special.

Lionel Messi’s magical lob against Albacete, Wayne Rooney’s long-range stunner against Arsenal, Steven Gerrard’s jinking solo goal against Sheffield Wednesday.

In a decade’s time, we might well be looking back at Curtis Jones’ offensively audacious curled winner against Everton as one of those moments.

If you’re suffering from isolation-induced amnesia and can’t recall the moment we’re on about, let us set the scene.

It was a brisk January evening in the red corner of Merseyside. Liverpool were set to take on Everton in the FA Cup third round. It was Carlo Ancelotti’s first taste of derby action, and knowing what their unfavourable derby record meant to the fans and players, the new boss fielded the strongest team available to him.

Jürgen Klopp had other ideas, however. The German famously views the cup competitions as an afterthought, and the XI he named was so second-string that even though his team were miles ahead at the top of the Premier League, their relegation-battling city rivals were installed as firm favourites.

Three teenagers, one debutant, and six players who had made less than ten senior appearances were named in a cobbled-together lineup, and the lack of experience was underlined further when James Milner – the captain – was replaced after just nine minutes.

Adam Lallana had the unfavourable task of marshalling a midfield featuring two largely unheard-of, untested kids, but as it transpired, he got more than a little help from an unexpected source.

Under the floodlights, live on TV and in the midst of a sweltering, explosive atmosphere, you might have forgiven Jones – who had started just once previously, in the EFL Cup against MK Dons – for playing it safe.

That phrase, however, is apparently alien to Jones.

We’d had a hint at his bottle and testicular fortitude when he stepped up to coolly slot home the winning penalty against Arsenal in the league cup fourth round, but what he delivered here was beyond even his own wildest dreams.

Jones ran the show with a performance that perfectly epitomised what the Merseyside Derby is all about. At times, he took the sort of kicking that might dissuade another young player from ever lacing up the boots again, but he gave as good as he got.

On the ball, he was unplayable, with the drive of Gerrard at his best but a level of composure and precision that gave a vague air of Andrés Iniesta in full flow.

At a time when a group of young Liverpool players were admirably holding their own and fighting tooth and nail to keep themselves alive, though, they needed someone to step up with a moment of quality. To take a step beyond the ‘plucky youngster’ tag and make themselves a hero.

Jones didn’t half come up with that. Taking a pass from Divock Origi out on the left, he saw Jordan Pickford’s postage stamp winking at him, and unleashed an effort that was so impressive it was almost laughable.

Anfield erupted in stages, and when it had finally dawned on everyone in the stadium what had just happened, everyone in attendance – and watching at home – knew what they were witnessing.

It was Curtis Jones’ moment.

He might never hit a height like this again – this goal was so incredibly good and so immeasurably significant it could easily prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

To show such a ridiculous level of bottle and self-possession on a stage such as that, at such an early stage in his career, however… Well, something will have to go very, very wrong to prevent Jones’ rise to the top.

For more from Robbie Copeland, follow him on Twitter!

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