An attacking masterclass from Sheyi Ojo earned the Liverpool U21s a 3-2 victory over their Middlesbrough counterparts at Victoria Park on Monday night.
The 18-year-old lined up on the left-hand side of a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation, and dominated from the first whistle as Liverpool overwhelmed their opposition for much of the night.
Alongside fellow first-team hopefuls Danny Ward, Brad Smith and Pedro Chirivella, as well as U21s veterans Jerome Sinclair and Ryan McLaughlin, Ojo was in excellent form.
His first came just after the half-hour mark, powering home on the break after great work from Sinclair.
Cancelling out Middlesbrough’s opener with this strike, Ojo put his side ahead in the second half.
Picking up the ball from Kent on the left flank, the powerful winger cut inside onto his right with a dip of the shoulder, before whipping an excellent effort over the Middlesbrough defence and beyond the goalkeeper.
Arnel Jakupovic added to his opener with a second goal soon after from the penalty spot, levelling the scores at 2-2 to set up a tense conclusion.
With Sinclair charging into the box late on, the striker was felled to give Liverpool the chance for the winner—and there was no stopping Ojo from stepping up for his hat-trick.
Emulating Christian Benteke’s cool spot-kick from Sunday afternoon, Ojo sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to secure an emphatic finish for the young Reds.
Ojo’s top performance comes as another in a long line of impressive outings this season, and while Jurgen Klopp is enjoying the strength in depth in his first-team ranks, an opening may arise for the ex-MK Dons man.
With Jordon Ibe currently out of the running when it comes to a starting role, and James Milner facing a one-match ban after his red card against Crystal Palace on Sunday, Klopp could be evaluating his options.
Kent, Sinclair and Alex O’Hanlon also performed well in Hartlepool on Monday night, but the victory was largely down to Ojo’s brilliance.
Liverpool have a star in the making, and Klopp now must decide just when to unleash Ojo on the Premier League.
Liverpool U21s: Ward; McLaughlin (Whelan 62′), Brewitt, Maguire, Smith; O’Hanlon, Chirivella; Kent, M Gomes, Ojo; Sinclair (Trickett-Smith 90′)
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