By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
It was a night to remember for Rhian Brewster, as a long road to recovery culminated in a show-stopping performance in Liverpool’s first pre-season friendly of the summer.
His 45 minutes of action against Tranmere Rovers yielded an assist, followed by two goals as the 18-year-old ran the home side’s defence ragged in the first half.
He looked sharp from the off, and would produce his first bit of end-product after only six minutes – he picked out Nathaniel Clyne with a precise pass across the 18-yard box which was converted by his compatriot. His two strikes saw him involved in every goal of the first period, and set the tongues of Liverpool fans everywhere wagging.
Yasser Larouci also earned a lot of admiring looks. The French-Algerian is a lesser-known quantity, but came in a left-back to put in a fearless performance in Birkenhead.
He almost scored early on, with a slick exchange with Adam Lallana – after a Robertson-esque drive forward – ending with a left-footed effort from the edge of the area which was tipped over the bar.
A product of the famous French academy at Ligue 2 side Le Havre, which has helped produce the likes of Paul Pogba, Riyad Mahrez and Dimitri Payet, this showing will have supporters excited, and could signal to Jurgen Klopp that he is ready to be more involved with the first team.
But there were a lot of youngsters on show at Prenton Park as the Reds eased to a comfortable 6-0 victory over Micky Mellon’s newly-promoted Whites. While Brewster and Larouci will get the headlines, there were a few others who can be proud of their evening’s work.
Much is expected of the Welshman after his successful spell on-loan at Derby County last season, but his future at Liverpool is still very much unknown.
Rumours earlier in the transfer window suggested that the club were ready to cash in on the 22-year-old while his value is still high, but nothing has yet materialised and, if Klopp was thinking of selling, an energetic and productive showing on Thursday may have changed his mind.
He ran at the Tranmere defence constantly on the right side for 45 minutes, always giving his marker something else to worry about and creating a lot of space for teammates to work in. His delicate cross for Brewster’s first of he evening will have done his confidence the world of good too.
With the club looking set to stay quiet in the transfer market and trust in the squad available, Wilson might just be an asset to the club. He provides cover in the wide areas, counts as a home-grown player in the Reds’ quota and now has professional experience at a good level.
Hopefully, with a few more strong performances in the upcoming friendlies, he can convince fans that he is good enough to be in the squad and that the club doesn’t need to go shopping for a new attacker.
On the opposite flank, the Reds’ attacking trio was completed by a man who was crowned Player of the Year while on loan at Rangers last season.
Another temporary spell in Scotland seemed inevitable just a few weeks ago, but that has been delayed so he can provide cover for Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah in pre-season – both are away on extended leave after international duty at the African Cup of Nations.
He grabbed his chance against Tranmere, running with the ball to his heart’s content and forming a potent partnership with Larouci down the left. A penchant for swapping places with James Milner and coming into a more central position at times also offered and intriguing demonstration of versatility.
Another year at Ibrox under Steven Gerrard is still very much possible – maybe even probably – but a strong showing at Prenton Park did him no harm. A few more performances like that this summer and Klopp might just afford him a long-awaited shot in the senior squad.
We heard a lot of the young Dutchman after he arrived from Ajax this time last year, and were very much impressed when he was unceremoniously thrusted into the limelight, playing almost 90 minutes against Wolves in January as a 16-year-old.
The rest of last season was much quieter as he got his head down and worked hard with the youth teams, but against Tranmere he resurfaced with a dominant three-quarters of an hour on the pitch at right-back.
He looked very comfortable on the ball and always seemed to make the right pass, showing intelligence and a maturity to his game. There wasn’t a lot of attacking threat too, making an excellent run down the line to help set-up Liverpool’s final goal of the day – not to mention a delicious Cruyff Turn pass on the touchline that got a few gasps from viewers and would have made Lallana proud.
More than that, he looked taller, stronger and fitter. He has definitely spent time in the gym, and looks a more rounded and capable player for it. With Rafa Camacho now out of the way and Sepp van den Berg’s arrival at Anfield, Hoever’s future does seem to be at full-back rather than the central position he occupied against Wolves.
That future looks bright, but once concern is that he still hasn’t signed a professional contract despite having been eligible for more than six months. Don’t expect the club to wait around for too much longer, though.
Rhian Brewster might be older, more experienced and ahead of him in the queue of talented young strikers at Liverpool, but don’t think for a second that Duncan doesn’t have a chance of making it on Merseyside.
The 18-year-old is famously Steven Gerard’s cousin, and a string of impressive performances in the youth sides has coaches hoping that he can go on to have a similar sort of impact at the club in the future.
He did himself a lot of favours in his second-half opportunity against Tranmere, biding his time and waiting for a chance to come along. It did, when Hoever drove a ball across the face of goal and Duncan swept home like he had been doing it for years.
As the sixth goal in a pre-season friendly it didn’t mean much in the grand scheme, but to him it will have meant the world, that first strike while playing with the senior side. He’ll have a hard time getting past Brewster in the pecking order, but he certainly has the ability and drive to do so.
Who knows? Perhaps the pair could go on to form a lethal striking partnership. The only thing we need to know right now is that the future is bright at Anfield, and there’s no denying that’s the case.