Henderson hails 'brilliant' Liverpool youngsters after Champions League victory against Ajax

Curtis Jones Liverpool 2020-21
The Reds sealed first place in their group with a game to spare, with their rising stars proving decisive

Jordan Henderson was proud to see Liverpool youngsters Caoimhin Kelleher, Curtis Jones and Neco Williams impress in their Champions League win against Ajax on Tuesday.

The Reds secured first place in Group D with the 1-0 victory at Anfield, with 19-year-old Jones netting the decisive goal with an assist from Williams.

Goalkeeper Kelleher made his Champions League debut when he replaced the injured Alisson in the starting XI.

For Henderson, seeing the team's younger stars shine on the big stage was the highlight of the evening. 

"Any victory is always welcome, but even more so when it comes against a top European side and helps secure qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League," he wrote in Liverpool's matchday programme ahead of Sunday's Premier League match against Wolves.

"The best thing about it, though, was it was made possible by the performances of some of our younger players, all of whom deserve all the credit in the world for how they played. 

"Curtis Jones got the headlines and rightly so. He is a 19-year-old boy – and I use that word deliberately because in football terms he is still a kid – playing for his boyhood team with all of the pressures that come with that situation, but he doesn’t let it show.  

"He went out there, played his football, got the decisive goal and generally looked like he had been part of the team for years when the reality is he’s still a young lad with only a handful of appearances to his name.

"In goal we had Caoimhin Kelleher, a little bit older than Curtis but probably a little bit less experienced in terms of first-team exposure. Not only that, he was filling in for Alisson, who has been such an incredible presence for us over the last few seasons. 

"Imagine that: you’re making your European debut for Liverpool in a massive game in front of a global audience and you have to replace one of the best in the world in your position.

"Keeping a clean sheet in any circumstances is always an achievement, but in this particular situation it is an even bigger one and all of the accolades Caoimhin received afterwards were richly deserved." 

Henderson continued: "We are so fortunate to have a brilliant set of ’keepers, all of whom are entirely focused on delivering what’s best for the team.

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"I can’t praise Adrian enough for how he conducts himself and the contribution he makes. He is a true leader in our dressing room and I’m sure Caoimhin would be the first to acknowledge that having a person and professional of Adrian’s quality supporting and guiding him made the evening more manageable for him. 

"The same goes for Neco Williams. Like Caoimhin, he had to stand in for a top-class player with Trent being unavailable through injury.

"I know the gaffer had a chat with Neco after the Brighton game and the outcome of that was that he went onto the pitch in a massive game and performed to the kind of level that we all know he is capable of."