LONDON (AFP) – Trent Alexander-Arnold’s stunning free-kick for Liverpool in their 2-1 Champions League win over Hoffenheim had the British media purring ‘Who needs Coutinho?’ in reference to the wantaway Brazilian star.
The 18-year-old’s opening goal for Liverpool in the tie in Germany – setting them up nicely for next week’s home leg – incited the Daily Mail to headline their report “Alexander The Great”.
Alexander-Arnold called it a “thing of dreams” to score on his European debut for his “boyhood club” in their Champions League play-off, first-leg clash, and was lavishly praised by club icon Steven Gerrard.
But had Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho been fit, Alexander-Arnold probably wouldn’t even have taken the free-kick.
Gerrard, who coaches the Liverpool Under-18 side, said the former club mascot – another Liverpool great Jamie Carragher tweeted a photo of him and Alexander-Arnold in the tunnel before a League Cup match in 2009 – could threaten England international Nathan Clyne’s first choice spot at fullback this season.
“It was a fabulous free-kick and it’s ironic really because Coutinho might have taken it if he was available,” said Gerrard.
“He has played superbly in general play but to have the character to take that before the likes of Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane says a lot.
“I know this kid very well, he’s going to be a top, top player and Nathaniel Clyne has to be very, very careful this season because he is already breathing down his neck.”
Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp lavished praise on the teenager, whose deftly-struck free-kick wrong-footed the Hoffenheim defence to give Liverpool the lead on 35 minutes.
“I find it astounding that an 18-year-old has the balls to cheekily smash in a free-kick from a situation like that,” enthused Klopp.
“It was a very intense game for him, he is a great young player with a lot of potential.”
Former Republic of Ireland striking great Tony Cascarino, now a respected pundit for The Times, also praised the youngster for his boldness in stepping up to take the freekick, which reflected “the respect that his team-mates have for him”.
Cascarino added that defensively it was hard to judge him – though his “electric pace” is eye-catching – and whilst he was at fault for the late Hoffenheim goal, he would learn from it.
“Overall he’s very athletic, though he needs to fill out a little, but that will come,” wrote Cascarino.
“In terms of defending it’s pretty hard to judge him in this Liverpool team because the full backs are often so exposed.
“The late Hoffenheim goal was the only time he put a foot wrong. But that’s why he plays these big games, to learn and get the mistakes out of his system.”