Klopp named four teenagers in his starting line-up – including 16-year-old Harvey Elliott – but it was 33-year-old Milner’s experience that ensured the Reds won their first game in the competition for almost three years. Milner opened the scoring before providing the cross for 17-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever to score his first senior goal.
“This man is on fire,” said Klopp, when asked about Milner’s contribution. “He is a real role model for young players and the team had a lack of experience and a lack of rhythm and the player with the most experience and rhythm was the best player.”
A howler by keeper Stuart Moore set Klopp’s much-changed side on their way against League One MK Dons. Moore appeared to have Milner’s fierce strike covered but the ball bounced off his chest and squirmed into the net in front of a club record 28,521 attendance at Stadium MK.
It was Milner’s 1st goal in the match since the 2010 final for Aston Villa against Manchester United. MK Dons missed two glorious chances through Conor McGrandles and Sam Nombe, while Jordan Bowery hit the post in the second half before Hoever’s powerful header sealed Liverpool’s place in the last 16. Elliott, one of three debutants in Liverpool’s line-up, hit the bar twice – as well as missing another chance from close range.
Aged 16 years and 174 days, former Fulham midfielder Elliott made history as the youngest ever performer to start a reasonable match for Liverpool. As well as Elliott, Klopp gave debuts to 20-year-old keeper Caoimhin Kelleher and 19-year-old familiar Rhian Brewster, Liverpool’s top scorer in pre-season. Having been eliminated at the third round stage the previous two seasons by Chelsea and Leicester, Klopp still loaded his team with experience in the shape of Naby Keita, and World Cup finalist Adam Lallana, Milner, Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez.
And it was a case of job done for the Reds as they avoided an upset despite a stirring second-half showing from MK Dons, who are 15th in England’s third tier. While Guinea midfielder Keita, fit again after injury, made his first appearance since the Community Shield last month, Elliott and 18-year-old Curtis Jones both gave Liverpool fans an exciting glimpse into the future with energetic performances. Read more football match news here.