Elliott steals the show as £50m-man Diaz makes encouraging Liverpool debut

Harvey Elliott Liverpool 2021-22Getty Images

Match statistics: Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff City

Harvey Elliott did not want to leave the pitch, and who could blame him?

This was the day he has been waiting for, the ovation he has craved, the Jurgen Klopp hug he had longed for above all others.

Enjoy it, young man. You deserve it.

One-hundred-and-forty-seven days since the teenager’s world felt like it had caved in, here he was doing what he does best, and what he loves most.

Lighting up football matches. Lighting up Anfield.

Liverpool are into the fifth round of the FA Cup, courtesy of a 3-1 win over a dogged Cardiff City side who may feel that with a touch more luck, they might have got something from their trip to Merseyside.

A home tie against Norwich City awaits, but that is not the story.

Sunday was about Elliott, and a moment which should warm the hearts of all fans, whatever their allegiance. "A proper fairytale," Klopp called it. About right.

The horror of that injury suffered at Leeds back in September, the fears and the pain and the long days in the gym and the swimming pool, they were all washed away here as, 19 minutes after his emergence as a substitute, Elliott controlled a cross from Andy Robertson, swivelled in one movement and lashed a brilliant left-footed strike into the Kop-end net.

The celebrations said it all, as Elliott’s team-mates rushed to congratulate their young colleague. They know what the 18-year-old has been through, and how hard he has worked to get back playing inside five months.

They love him, and why wouldn’t they?

Harvey Elliott Liverpool 2021-22Getty Images

At the end, the former Fulham man stayed a little longer, soaking up the applause from the stands. As he got to the tunnel, Klopp was waiting for him, gripping him in that familiar bear hug. He too knows what this meant.

Elliott was not the only star attraction on show, either. There was a more-than-encouraging debut from Luis Diaz, the new £50 million ($67m) signing from Porto.

The Colombia international was introduced along with Elliott, shortly before the hour mark, and needed only 11 minutes to make his first contribution in red.

It was a very ‘Klopp’ contribution too, chasing down a lost cause, robbing Perry Ng, the Cardiff defender, inside the penalty area and showing quick feet to slip in a pass that Takumi Minamino finished off.

Anfield loved it, although it held its collective breath when Diaz hit the deck in pain towards the end of the game. Surely not, they wondered, as replays showed an awkward landing after an aerial duel with Aden Flint.

But after treatment, the 25-year-old was able to finish the game. "A bruise and a little cut - welcome to England!" laughed Klopp, and Diaz can reflect on a fine first half an hour or so with his new club.

With those two shining, and with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane due back after their Afcon final, Liverpool’s squad suddenly looks well-stocked. They were able to give Alisson Becker and Fabinho the day off here, while Thiago Alcantara, back from a hip injury, was introduced for the final 12 minutes.

Big things lie ahead for Klopp’s side, who still harbour ambitions of chasing down Manchester City in the Premier League, have a Champions League last-16 tie with Inter later this month, as well as a Carabao Cup final against Chelsea to look forward to before February is out.

They will need as many of their stars firing as possible, if they are to pursue all four major targets.

The good news here, is that they have two new ones to throw into the mix. Exciting times, indeed.